4 Ways Employers can Prepare for Healthcare Changes

With all the proposed changes coming to healthcare. Take a look at this article by Mark Johnson from Employee Benefit News and see what you can do to prepare yourself and your employees for that call the changes coming to healthcare.

The new healthcare bill, revealed by U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday, could bring significant changes to organizations and their employees. Granted, there’s a long way to go before any Obamacare replacement legislation is signed. But health insurance is a complex component of running any business, and it’s important that employers start preparing for what might come.

Here are four actions items employers should be addressing now.

1. Create a roadmap. A compliance calendar is a helpful tool in identifying major deadlines. Employers are legally obligated to share health insurance and benefits updates with their employees by certain dates. Employees must be given reasonable notice — typically 30 days prior — of a major change in policy. There will likely be a set date for compliance and specific instructions around notice requirements that accompany the new legislation.

One step to compliance is adhering to benefit notice requirements. Benefit notices (i.e., HIPAA, COBRA, Summary Plan Descriptions, Special Health Care Notices, Health Care Reform, Form 5500 and others) vary by the size of the organization. Other steps can be more involved, such as required changes to plan design (e.g., copays, deductibles and coinsurance), types of services covered and annual and lifetime maximums, among others. Create a compliance calendar that reflects old and new healthcare benefit requirements so you can stay on track.

2. Rally the troops. Managing healthcare compliance spans several departments. Assemble key external and internal stakeholders by department, including HR, finance, payroll and IT.

Update the team on potential changes as healthcare legislation makes its way through Congress so they can prepare and be ready to execute should a new bill be signed. HR is responsible for communicating changes to employees and providing them with information on their plan and benefits. Finance needs to evaluate how changes in the plan will affect the company’s bottom line. Payroll must be aware of how much of an employee’s check to allocate to health insurance each month. In addition, payroll and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are used to track and monitor changes in employee population, which helps employers determine benefit notice and compliance requirements. All departments need to be informed of the modified health insurance plan as soon as possible and on the same page.

3. Get connected. It’s essential to verify information as it’s released, via newsletters, seminars, healthcare carriers, payroll vendors and consultants. These resources can help employers navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Knowledge of changes will empower an organization to handle them effectively.

4. Evaluate partnerships. There’s no better time for employers to examine their current partners, from an insurance consultant or broker to the accounting firm and legal counsel. An employer’s insurance consultant should be a trusted adviser in working on budgeting and benchmarking the company plan, administering benefits, evaluating plan performance and reporting outcomes. Finding an insurance solution that meets a company’s business goals, as well as its employee’s needs, can be accomplished with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance partner.

Staying ahead of healthcare changes is essential for organizations to have a smooth transition to an updated healthcare plan. Strategic planning, communication among departments and establishing the right partnerships are key. Employers must be proactive in addressing healthcare changes so they are ready when the time comes.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson M. (2017 June 23). 4 ways employers can prepare for healthcare changes [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/5-ways-employers-can-prepare-for-healthcare-changes


Time for an Arnold Family Favorite

 

This month, we are bringing you some food favorites of our own Rich Arnold!

Rich is thrilled to be a part of the Saxon team and to provide the education to simplify the options and help his clients make a smart decision based on their individual needs. By representing all the carriers, he can provide the right solution at no cost to his clients.

Medicare Consultant

Over the years, Rich has been a teacher, an owner of several printing businesses, and recently retired after 10 years running the Sharonville Chamber of Commerce.In his spare time, Rich is actively working with non-profits, helping with community projects, and spending time with his 5 grandchildren.

For a night out, Rich recommends checking out the lobster cardinal at Barresi’s Italian Restaurant!

Need directions? 

 


STAY IN

This Armenian Pilaf (Rice Pilaf) is an Arnold family favorite.

It is easy to make and goes with most of anything but our family really likes it when I make it with BBQ chicken.  The grandkid’s eyes light up when they find out we are making rice pilaf. Plus, Grandpa, that’s me, likes it the second, third and fourth time when I heat it up from the refrigerator!

  • 1/3 of 1 stick of butter
  • ½ cup thin raw egg noodles crushed up
  • 1 cup non-instant rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt

Melt butter in sauce pan, and add noodles.

Brown noodles in butter stirring so it doesn’t burn, just brown.

Add rice to noodles and mix. Add broth and salt and cover. Cook over

Low heat. Uncover after 15-20 minutes. Good served with chicken or pork

DINE OUT

My favorite restaurant is Barresi’s Italian Restaurant located in their original home in the heart of Deer Park/Madiera.

It is a toss-up as to which I enjoy more – the lasagna or the lobster cardinal!  All made from scratch and mouthwatering.

FUN FACT

Other than the satisfaction of helping folks get through the maze of Medicare options I am now the grandfather of 5 fabulous grandchildren ranging from 4 to 9 years old. Playing Old Maid, going to the park, attending supporting events, deciding who gets to ride in Grandpa’s car this time, being the Bear as I chase them around the house, and oh the fun we have every day!

 


How to Build Financial Wellness into a More Holistic Wellness Program

Are you looking for new ways to help your employees increase their financial wellness? Check out this great article by Michelle Clark from SHRM highlighting what HR can do to help employees engage with the company's benefits program to improve their financial situation.

The majority of HR professionals give their employees a financial health rating of “fair” and nearly 20 percent report that their employees are “not at all” financially literate according to a national SHRM survey.

That’s an issue. Because when employees are stressed about money they don’t turn their worry off at work – and the price is paid in lost productivity.

You can help fix the problem. Everyone wins when traditional employee wellness programs are recast in a more holistic, well-rounded way – with financial wellness an important cornerstone.

There is no cookie cutter solution. But if you build a customized program that’s responsive to specific requirements and comfort levels of different employee groups, it can be rewarding and valuable.

First, review your employee demographics to get an idea of what their financial situations may look like. For example, it’s understood that the majority of today’s workforce is comprised of three age groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each has different financial stressors and preferences on how they prefer to receive assistance:

  • Boomers on the verge of retirement are wondering if they can afford it or even want to retire. If they need to work, they are worried they’ll have a hard time finding a job.
  • Generation X can barely think about retirement planning when they’re trying to cover the mortgage, raise kids, save money for college and shoulder responsibilities for aging parents.
  • Millennials are burdened by student loan debt while trying to stretch their paychecks so they can live on their own instead of with their parents.

There also are vastly different ways each accesses support. Boomers may be okay with online resources and one-on-one coaching. But Millennials and Gen Xers may want more high-tech resources such as websites offering basic money courses and worksheets to help with budgets, housing or investment planning.

Once a solution has been established, the next step is getting people to partake. You don’t want to target employees, since privacy is a major consideration. Offering options allows employees to engage privately on their own terms. That’s why the online solutions are ideal for individual financial issues, offered in tandem with more on-site sessions on general concerns. And there’s always the potential of offering one-on-one financial counseling or financial wellness coaches to round out your program.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Clark M. (2017 June 16). How to build financial wellness into a more holistic wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-blog-june-2017-how-to-build-financial-wellness-into-a-more-holistic-we


Employees Aren't so Sure About Their Benefits Options

Are your employees having a hard time understanding all the benefits that are offered to them? Take a look at this article by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from Benefits Pro and find out the major questions that most employees seem to have about their employee benefits.

Employers have a conundrum: One-fifth of workers regret the health care benefit choices they make, but the same percentage of workers also concede they ignore any written educational materials about benefits their employers provided.

To make matters worse, according to Jellyvision’s 2017 ALEX Benefits Communication Survey, two-thirds don’t like in-person consultations -- not even if it’s within a group or one-on-one with a benefits expert.

So what’s an employer to do?

“The challenge is most people don’t want  ‘education’ on these topics,” says Jellyvision chief executive Amanda Lannert. “No one wakes up with a burning desire to learn about HDHPs. In our experience, people respond best to plain-English communication that feels like they’re talking about benefits with a friend -- if benefits were a thing friends ever talked about.”

The good news is 82 percent of the 2,043 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Poll say they’re satisfied with their employer’s benefits communication, and 86 percent feel their company has provided them with enough information to make informed decisions. A majority (69 percent) say they personally have spent either “a great deal” or “a lot” of time learning about their company’s benefits offerings.

However, while 89 percent say they generally understand their benefit options, more than a few aren’t too sure about all of the details.

For example, only 59 percent are correct in identifying the full cost of their health care plan, including their contribution and their employer’s contribution, and half (50 percent) say they are not knowledgeable about high-deductible health plans. More than half (54 percent) are unsure whether they can make changes to their insurance during qualified life events, and 43 percent are unclear on where to direct their health insurance questions.

“We think the number one biggest take-away of this entire survey is… employees want your help when choosing their health plans,” the authors write.

Indeed, more than half (55 percent) of all employees whose company offers health insurance say they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan. Roughly half (49 percent) say the decision-making process is very stressful, and 36 percent feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.

Jellyvision’s survey asked respondents to react to a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, particularly as it relates to employer-provided health insurance plans, and found a majority (61 percent) don’t think a repeal would affect them personally.

When asked about keeping certain provisions of the ACA, 80 percent say it’s “absolutely essential” or “very important” to keep coverage of preexisting conditions, 78 percent say that about free preventative care, and 67 percent say that about coverage of adult children up to age 26.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2017 June 22). Employees aren't so sure about their benefits options [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/22/employees-arent-so-sure-about-their-benefits-optio


Unrealistic Expectations Muddy Employee Retirement Planning

Many younger employees have unrealistic dreams when it comes to planning their retirement. Here is a great article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit Adviser on what you can do to help your millennial employees plan for their future retirement.

Three generations of U.S. investors accept that they are largely responsible for funding their own retirements. But many of them harbor unrealistic hopes of receiving a sizable inheritance as part of their funding plan.

These were among the conclusions drawn by a recent survey of 750 individual investors with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets—including 223 millennials, 251 Gen Xers and 236 baby boomers.

The 2017 study was conducted by the U.S. research arm of Natixis Global Asset Management, a French company that is one of the 20 largest asset managers in the world. It found that 78% of investors recognize that more of the retirement funding burden is falling on their shoulders, since their employers have begun offering defined contribution retirement plans in lieu of defined benefit pension plans. And many also believe that Social Security won’t be available to them by the time they retire. But a significant percentage (43%) hope to receive an inheritance that will help them compensate for any savings shortfall.

This is especially true of millennials, who are twice as likely as baby boomers to expect that a financial windfall from their parents or grandparents will play an important role in meeting their retirement needs. Per the survey, 62% of millennials, compared to only 31% of boomers, anticipate receiving an inheritance that will help fund their retirement.

That’s a major disconnect, says Dave Goodsell, executive director of the Natixis Durable Portfolio Construction Research Center, which carried out the research. He points to findings that 40% of baby boomers don’t plan to leave an inheritance and 57% don’t think they will have anything left to pass down to their children or grandchildren. Only 56% even have a will in place.

Further exacerbating the situation, many of the investors surveyed underestimate the amount of savings they will need for retirement. They assume that they will only need replace 63% of their pre-retirement income, according to Goodsell, which is at odds with the retirement industry’s more conservative target of 75% to 85%.

Looking to the kids

Apart from an inheritance, many of the investors surveyed also believe they can count on their children for some sort of support when they retire, either through shared living arrangements or some type of stipend or allowance. “Retirement has become a multigenerational question,” Goodsell observes.

On the other hand, only 37% of the respondents say they expect Social Security to be an important source of income for their retirement. “There’s a great deal of skepticism,” notes Goodsell, “which should serve as a motivation to plan ahead for retirement and set realistic savings and spending goals.” Unfortunately, he adds, many investors’ decision making is clouded by unrealistic expectations.

Workplace 401(k) plans encourage savings discipline, since they make it easy for employees to save automatically. But in and of themselves they are insufficient, says the Natixis researcher, and employers need to help their employees make better financial determinations by providing them with retirement planning tools, including access to a financial adviser.

“Access is critically important,” he says. “Because responsibility is being shifted off to individuals, we need to make sure they have access to the right resources and understand how to use them.”

Key topics that need to be addressed, according to the survey, include financial planning basics, such as budgeting; how to manage and plan for required minimum distributions; tax, estate and long-term care planning, as well as managing debt and credit cards and understanding investment risk.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 25). Unrealistic expectations muddy employee retirement planning [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/unrealistic-expectations-muddy-employee-retirement-planning?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


How the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) Could Affect Coverage and Premiums for Older Adults

The Senate is on the verge of voting for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) a new replacement to the ACA. Find out how the passing of the BCRA will impact older Americans and their healthcare in this informative article by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), adults in their 50s and early 60s were arguably most at risk in the private health insurance market. They were more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed with certain conditions, like cancer and diabetes, for which insurers denied coverage. They were also more likely to face unaffordable premiums because insurers had broad latitude (in nearly all states) to set high premiums for older and sicker enrollees.

The ACA included several provisions that aimed to address problems older adults faced in finding more affordable health insurance coverage, including guaranteed access to insurance, limits on age rating, and a prohibition on premium surcharges for people with pre-existing conditions. Following passage of a bill to repeal and replace the ACA in the House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, the Senate has released a discussion draft of its proposal, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) on June 26, 2017, that follows a somewhat different approach.

The Senate BCRA discussion draft would make a number of changes to current law that would result in an increase of four million 50-64-year-olds without health insurance in 2026, according to CBO’s analysis.

The Senate proposal would disproportionately affect low-income older adults with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL): three of the four million 50-64-year-olds projected to lose health insurance in 2026 would be low-income. CBO projects the uninsured rate for low-income older adults would rise from 11% under current law to 26% under the BCRA by 2026.

The increase in the number and share of uninsured older adults would be due to several changes made by the BCRA to private health insurance market rules and subsidies, as well as changes to the Medicaid program.

CHANGES AFFECTING PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE

Age Bands. Under current law, insurers are prohibited from charging older adults more than 3-times the premium amount for younger adults. The Senate bill would allow insurers to charge older adults five-times more than younger adults, beginning in 2019. States would have flexibility to establish different age bands (broader or narrower). CBO estimates that age rating would increase premiums significantly for plans at all metal levels for older adults. The impact of age rating would be such that, for a 64-year-old, the national average premium for an unsubsidized bronze plan in 2026 would increase from $12,900 (current law) to $16,000 (BCRA). The wider age bands permitted under the BCRA would result in higher premiums for an unsubsidized bronze plan than the premium for an unsubsidized silver plan under the current law age-rating standard.

Tax Credits. The Senate’s BCRA makes three key changes affecting premium tax credits for people in the non-group insurance market. First, it changes the income eligibility for tax credits, extending eligibility to people with income below the FPL but capping eligibility at income of 350% FPL. Under current law, income eligibility for tax credits is 100%-400% FPL. This change has the effect of reducing premiums for people with incomes below poverty in the marketplace who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid (discussed further below) while increasing premiums for people with incomes between 350%-400% FPL.

Second, BCRA changes the level of subsidy for people based on age. Under both current law and the BCRA, individuals must pay a required contribution amount, based on income, toward the cost of a benchmark plan; the premium tax credit equals the difference between the cost of the benchmark plan and the required individual contribution. Under current law, the required contribution rate is the same for all people at the same income level regardless of age. However, under the BCRA, the required contribution amount would increase with age for people with an income above 150% FPL. For example, under current law, at 350% FPL, individuals are required to contribute the same percentage of income toward the benchmark plan, regardless of age (9.69% in 2017). Under the BCRA, starting in 2020, a 24-year-old would contribute about 6.4% of income, while a 60-year-old would have to contribute 16.2% of income.1

Third, the Senate proposal reduces the value of the benchmark plan used to determine premium tax credits from a more generous silver-level plan (under current law) to the equivalent of a bronze plan (under BCRA). Deductibles under bronze plans are much higher than under silver plans (in 2017, on average, $6,105 for bronze plans vs. $3,609 for silver plans). Under current law, silver plan deductibles are further reduced by cost-sharing subsidies for eligible individuals with incomes below 250% FPL (on average to $255, $809, or $2,904, depending on income). The BCRA eliminates cost-sharing subsidies starting in 2020. As a result, people using tax credits to buy a “benchmark” bronze plan would face significantly higher deductibles under the Senate proposal than under current law.

For older adults with income above the poverty level, the combined impact of these changes would be to increase the out-of-pocket cost for premiums at all income levels. For example, a 64-year old with an income of $26,500 would see premiums increase by $4,800 on average for a silver plan in 2026; a 64-year old with an income of $56,800 could see premiums increase of $13,700 in 2026, according to CBO.

Premium tax credits under the BCRA would continue to be based on the cost of a local benchmark policy, so results would vary geographically. Older adults living in higher cost areas could see greater dollar increases, while people living in lower cost areas could see lower increases.

For a bronze plan, the national average premium expense for a 64-year old could increase by $2,000 for an individual with an income of $26,500 in 2026 and by as much as $11,600 for an older adult with $56,800 in income.

Under current law, people with income below 100% FPL generally are not eligible for premium tax credits. The ACA extended Medicaid eligibility to adults below 138% FPL, but the Supreme Court subsequently ruled the expansion is a state option. To date 19 states have not elected the Medicaid expansion, leaving 2.6 millionuninsured low-income adults in this coverage gap.

For older adults with income below 100% FPL who are not eligible for Medicaid, CBO estimates the extension of premium tax credit eligibility will significantly reduce the net premium expense for a 64-year-old in 2026 relative to current law (e.g., by more than $12,000 for an individual at 75% FPL).

However, CBO estimates that few low-income people would purchase any plan. Even with relatively low premiums, older adults with very low incomes may choose to go without coverage due to relatively high, unaffordable deductibles. For example, an individual with an income of $11,400 (75% FPL) who is not eligible for Medicaid, would pay $300 in premiums in 2026 under BCRA but face a deductible in excess of $6,000 – which amounts to more than half of his or her income that year.

On average, 55-64 year-olds would pay 115% higher premiums for a silver plan in 2020 under the BCRA after taking tax credits into account. Low-income 55-64-year-olds would pay 294% higher premiums relative to current law.

CHANGES TO MEDICAID

Changes to Medicaid proposed in the Senate bill also contribute to the increase in the projected increase in the number of uninsured older adults nationwide. The BCRA would limit federal funds for states that have elected to expand coverage under Medicaid for low-income adults, phasing down the higher federal match for these expansion states over three years (2021-2023). This provision, coupled with a new cap on the growth in federal Medicaid funding over time on a per capita basis, would result in an estimated 15 million people losing Medicaid coverage by 2026 according to CBO, some of whom are counted among the four million older adults projected to lose health insurance under the BCRA, shown in Figure 1. In 2013, about 6.5 million 50-64-year-olds relied on Medicaid for their health insurance coverage, a number that has likely increased due to the Medicaid expansion.2 Since 2013, Medicaid enrollment overall has grown by nearly 30%.

IMPACT ON OLDER ADULTS ON MEDICARE

The loss of coverage for adults in their 50s and early 60s could have ripple effects for Medicare, a possibility that has received little attention. If the BCRA results in a loss of health insurance for a meaningful number of people in their late 50s and early 60s, as CBO projects, there is good reason to believe that people who lose insurance will delay care, if they can, until they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, and then use more services once on Medicare. This could cause Medicare spending to increase, which would lead to increases in Medicare premiums and cost-sharing requirements.3

The proposed BCRA changes to Medicaid are also expected to affect benefits and coverage for older, low-income adults on Medicare. Today, 11 million low-income people on Medicare have supplemental coverage under Medicaid that helps cover the cost of Medicare’s premiums and cost-sharing requirements, and the cost of services not covered by Medicare, such as nursing home and home- and community-based long-term services and supports. The BCRA reduces the trajectory of Medicaid spending, with new caps on the growth of benefit spending per person; these constraints are expected to put new fiscal pressure on states to control costs that could ultimately affect coverage and benefits available to low-income people on Medicare. Under the BCRA, the growth in Medicaid per capita spending for elderly and disabled beneficiaries is dialed down to a slower growth rate, from CPI-M+1 to CPI-U beginning in 2025, below currently projected growth rates, just as the first of the Boomer generation reaches their 80s and is more likely to need Medicaid-funded long-term services and supports.

DISCUSSION

The Senate bill to repeal and replace the ACA, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), if enacted, would be expected to result in an increase of four million uninsured 50-64-year olds in 2026, relative to current law. The increase is due to a number of factors, including higher premiums at virtually all income levels for older adults, potentially unaffordable deductibles for older adults with very low incomes, , and reductions in coverage under Medicaid. Reductions in coverage could have unanticipated spillover effects for Medicare in the form of higher premiums and cost sharing, if pre-65 adults need more services when they age on to Medicare as a result of being uninsured beforehand. The BCRA would also impose new, permanent caps on Medicaid spending which could affect coverage and costs for low-income people on Medicare.

Other changes in BCRA will affect Medicare directly. The BCRA would repeal the Medicare payroll tax imposed on high earners included in the ACA. This provision, according to CMS, will accelerate the insolvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and put the financing of future Medicare benefits at greater risk for current and future generations of older adults – another factor to consider as this debate moves forward.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Nueman T., Pollitz K., Levitt L. (2017 June 29). How the senate better care reconciliation act (BCRA) could affect coverage and premiums for older adults [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/how-the-senate-better-care-reconciliation-act-bcra-could-affect-coverage-and-premiums-for-older-adults/


Coverage Losses by State for the Senate Health Care Repeal Bill

The Congressional Budget Office has just released its score on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).  Find out how each state will be impacted by the implementation of BCRA  in this great article by Emily Gee from the Center for American Progress.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its score of the Senate’s health care repeal plan, showing that the bill would eliminate coverage for 15 million Americans next year and for 22 million by 2026. The CBO projects that the Senate bill would slash Medicaid funding by $772 billion over the next decade; increase individual market premiums by 20 percent next year; and make comprehensive coverage “extremely expensive” in some markets.

The score, released by Congress’ nonpartisan budget agency, comes amid an otherwise secretive process of drafting and dealmaking by Senate Republicans. Unlike the Senate’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which involved dozens of public hearings and roundtables plus weeks of debate, Senate Republican leadership released the first public draft of its Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) just days before it hopes to hold a vote.

The Center for American Progress has estimated how many Americans would lose coverage by state and congressional district based on the CBO’s projections. By 2026, on average, about 50,500 fewer people will have coverage in each congressional district. Table 1 provides estimates by state, and a spreadsheet of estimates by state and district can be downloaded at the end of this column.

The coverage losses under the BCRA would be concentrated in the Medicaid program, but the level of private coverage would also drop compared to the current law. The CBO projects that, by 2026, there will be 15 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage and 7 million fewer with individual market coverage. Our Medicaid numbers reflect that states that have expanded their programs under the ACA would see federal funding drop starting in 2021 and that the bill would discourage expansion among states that would otherwise have done so in the future.

Like the House’s repeal bill, the Senate’s version contains a provision allowing states to waive the requirement that plans cover essential health benefits (EHB). The CBO predicts that half of the population would live in waiver states under the Senate bill. The CBO did not specify which states it believes are most likely to secure waivers; therefore, we did not impose any assumptions about which individual states would receive waivers in our estimates. Even though the demographic composition of coverage losses would differ among waiver and nonwaiver states, for this analysis we assume that all states’ individual markets would shrink.

CBO expects that state waivers could put coverage for maternity care, mental health care, and high-cost prescription drugs “at risk.” CBO projects that “all insurance in the nongroup market would become very expensive for at least a short period of time for a small fraction of the population residing in areas in which states’ implementation of waivers with major changes caused market disruption.” Note that health insurance experts have noted that in addition to directly lowering standards for individual market coverage, waivers would also indirectly subject people in employer coverage to annual and lifetime limits on benefits.

The CBO’s score lists multiple reasons why out-of-pocket costs for individual market enrollees would rise under the bill. One reason is that bill’s changes to premium subsidies means that most people would end up buying coverage resembling bronze-level plans, which today typically have annual deductibles of $6,000. In addition, EHB waivers would force enrollees who could not afford supplemental coverage for non-covered benefits out of pocket while also allowing issuers to set limits on coverage.

In summary, the CBO projects that the effects of the Senate bill would be largely similar to those of the house bill: tens of millions of people would no longer have coverage, and those who remained insured see the quality of their coverage erode substantially. In just a few days, the Senate will vote to turn these dire projections into reality.

Methodology

Our estimates of coverage reductions follow the same methodology we used previously for the House’s  health care repeal bill. We combine the CBO’s projected national net effects of the House-passed bill on coverage with state and local data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census, and administrative data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia redrew their district boundaries prior to the 2016 elections. While the rest of our data uses census estimates corresponding to congressional districts for the 114th Congress, we instead used county-level data from the 2015 five-year American Community Survey to determine the geographic distribution of the population by insurance type in these three states. We matched county data to congressional districts for the 115th Congress using a geographic crosswalk file provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Our estimates of reductions in Medicaid by district required a number of assumptions. CBO projected that a total 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage by 2026 under the Senate bill: 5 million fewer would be covered by additional Medicaid expansion in new states, and 10 million fewer would have Medicaid coverage in current expansion states and among pre-ACA eligibility groups in all states. The CBO projected that, under the ACA, additional Medicaid expansion would increase the proportion of the newly eligible population residing in expansion states from 50 percent to 80 percent by 2026. It projected that just 30 percent of the newly eligible population would be in expansion states. Extrapolating from the CBO’s numbers, we estimate the Senate bill results in a Medicaid coverage reduction of 3.3 million enrollees in current expansion states by 2026.

We then assume the remaining 6.7 million people who would lose Medicaid coverage are from the program’s pre-ACA eligibility categories: low-income adults, low-income children, the aged, and disabled individuals. We used enrollment tables published by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC) to determine total state enrollment and each eligibility category’s share of the total, and we assumed that only some of the disabled were nonelderly. We then divided state totals among districts according to each’s Medicaid enrollment in the American Community Survey. Because each of the major nonexpansion categories is subject to per capita caps under the bill, we reduced enrollment in all by the same percentage.

Because we do not know which individual states would participate in Medicaid expansion in 2026 in either scenario, our estimates give nonexpansion states the average effect of forgone expansion and all expansion states the average effect of rolling back eligibility. We divided the 5 million enrollment reduction due to forgone expansion among nonexpansion states’ districts proportionally by the number of low-income uninsured. We made each expansion state’s share of that 3.3 million proportional to its Medicaid expansion enrollment in its most recent CMS report and then allocated state totals to districts proportional to the increase in nonelderly adult enrollment between 2013 and 2015. For Louisiana, which recently expanded Medicaid, we took our statewide total from state data and allocated to districts by the number of low-income uninsured adults.

Medicaid covers seniors who qualify as aged or disabled. Although the CBO did not specify the Medicaid coverage reduction that would occur among seniors under per capita caps, applying to elderly enrollees the same percentage reduction we calculated for nonexpansion Medicaid enrollees implies that 900,000 could lose Medicaid.

Lastly, our estimates of the reduction in exchange, the Basic Health Plan, and other nongroup coverage are proportional to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s estimates of exchange enrollment by congressional district. The House bill reduces enrollment in nongroup coverage, including the exchanges, by 7 million relative to the ACA. To apportion this coverage loss among congressional districts, we assumed that the coverage losses would be largest in areas with higher ACA exchange enrollment and in states where we estimated the average cost per enrollee would increase most under an earlier version of the AHCA.

The CBO projects that the net reduction in coverage for the two categories of employer-sponsored insurance and “other coverage” would be between zero and 500,000 people in 2026. We did not include these categories in our estimates.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gee E. (2017 June 27). Coverage losses by state for the senate health care repeal bill [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/news/2017/06/27/435112/coverage-losses-state-senate-health-care-repeal-bill/


CenterStage...Paving the Road to a Successful Portfolio

Determining a proper asset allocation is an important first step in creating your portfolio and planning how it will grow in the future. Asset allocation is the process of diversifying your investments into different asset classes based on the investor’s time horizon, their goals and how much risk they can tolerate.

Brian Bushman

“People always ask me what they can invest in that will make them a lot of money without the chance of losing any,” said Brian Bushman, Saxon Financial Advisor. “I tell them that this simply doesn’t exist. But I can, however, help them design an optimized portfolio based on their risk tolerance and what they are trying to accomplish.”

Whether you’re just beginning to save for retirement or you’re much further down the road with more substantial savings, asset allocation is the result of understanding your comfort with risk and how to best diversify your investments to accomplish your goals.

The key to asset allocation is diversification.  This allows an investor to take advantage of investing in many different opportunities which can reduce their overall risk. Assets can be allocated either strategically or tactically. A strategic plan sets a target allocation and consistently rebalances that allocation back to the original percentages while a tactical plan focuses on adjusting the portfolio based on current economic conditions and opportunities in order to produce a better risk adjusted return.  Brian and the investment team at Saxon bring a hybrid approach to designing and managing their investor’s portfolios.

Many investors only consider the returns on their investments, but it is very important to assess the level of risk a portfolio is taking to achieve that return.  Saxon’s approach is to optimize this risk vs. return ratio.

It is also important for investors to understand there are different types of risk.  Most associate risk with investment risk which is the risk of losing money.  However, there are many other risk factors to consider.  Inflationary risk, interest rate risk, credit risk, taxability risk, currency risk and legislative/political risk are other types of risks that need to be considered when developing a portfolio.

Below are the three main factors needed in designing a suitable portfolio for the client.

3 Factors in Designing a Suitable Portfolio

  1. Time Horizon

The amount of time that you have to reach your goals should directly impact the level of risk you are willing to take.  When you’re young you have much more time to recover from any losses that could be incurred from a drop in the market, but as retirement approaches you have less time to recover from market losses.

The closer you get to retirement, the more you should consider reducing your risk level.  Once you retire and need income from your investments you may need to redesign your portfolio from an accumulation portfolio to an income portfolio.

  1. Risk Tolerance

Typically, investments that have the potential to generate higher returns are riskier. This is where the idea of risk tolerance comes in.  This refers to the amount of volatility an investor can tolerate.

If your risk tolerance is low, then you will likely earn a lower return. To compensate for a lower anticipated return, it is important to evaluate the amount you are investing and possibly adjust your timeline accordingly to reach your goals. Usually gauged by a questionnaire, risk tolerance is often used to categorize investors as aggressive, moderate or conservative.

  1. Goals

Each person’s goals are different, whether you are working towards a long-term goal of retirement or a short-term goal, you should consider these goals in your asset allocation plan. One person’s ideal asset mix could be completely wrong for someone else. Outside of setting financial goals and an ideal retirement goal, it is important to set a goal to adjust investments as you age.

“There is no crystal ball that provides insight on how to best allocate assets. It’s a process that begins with an initial risk assessment, diversifying your investments and continually monitoring the progress of your portfolio,” said Brian Bushman, Saxon Financial Advisor.

A Saxon investment advisor can provide guidance through the process of creating a well-balanced portfolio.

To download the full CenterStage article click Here.

Copyright © 2017 Saxon Financial Services Communication regarding securities is strictly intended for individuals residing in the states of AL, AZ, CA, CT, FL, GA, IN, KS, KY, MD, MI, MO, NV, NC, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WA, WV, WY. Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, In., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Investment Advisor Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Saxon Financial Services are not affiliated. Not NCUA insured, not credit union guaranteed, may lose value. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific state(s) referenced.


The American Health Care Act: Economic and Employment Consequences for States

Could health insurance reductions under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) cause problems for employment in the future? Check out this article from The Commonwealth Fund to learn more.

Abstract

Issue: The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office indicates that the AHCA could increase the number of uninsured by 23 million by 2026.
Goal: To determine the consequences of the AHCA on employment and economic activity in every state.
Methods: We compute changes in federal spending and revenue from 2018 to 2026 for each state and use the PI+ model to project the effects on states’ employment and economies.
Findings and Conclusions: The AHCA would raise employment and economic activity at first, but lower them in the long run. It initially raises the federal deficit when taxes are repealed, leading to 864,000 more jobs in 2018. In later years, reductions in support for health insurance cause negative economic effects. By 2026, 924,000 jobs would be lost, gross state products would be $93 billion lower, and business output would be $148 billion less. About three-quarters of jobs lost (725,000) would be in the health care sector. States which expanded Medicaid would experience faster and deeper economic losses.

Background

On May 24, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA, H.R. 1628) to partially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The U.S. Senate is currently developing its own version of the legislation.

A January 2017 analysis found that repealing certain elements of the ACA—the Medicaid expansion and premium tax credits—could lead to 2.6 million jobs lost and lower gross state products of $1.5 trillion over five years.1,2 That brief focused only on specific repeal elements because other details were not available. This brief examines all aspects of the AHCA, including restructuring Medicaid and health tax credits and repealing ACA taxes (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1
Key Provisions of the American Health Care Act as Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives
Eliminates individual penalties for not having health insurance and penalties for employers that do not offer adequate coverage to employees. Raises premiums for people who do not maintain continuous insurance coverage.
Replaces the current income-related premium tax credits to subsidize nongroup health insurance with age-based tax credits. Allows premiums to be five times higher for the oldest individuals, compared to the current threefold maximum.
Restricts state Medicaid eligibility expansions for adults, primarily by reducing federal matching rates from 90 percent beginning in 2020 to rates ranging between 50 percent and 75 percent.
Creates temporary funding for safety-net health services in states that did not expand Medicaid.
Restructures Medicaid funding based on per capita allotments rather than the current entitlement. States may adopt fixed block grants instead.
Creates a Patient and State Stability Fund and Invisible Risk-Sharing Program.
Terminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Repeals numerous taxes included in the ACA, including Medicare taxes on investment income and on high-income earnings, taxes on health insurance and medical devices, and a tax on high-cost insurance (i.e., the “Cadillac tax”); raises limits for health savings accounts and lowers the threshold for medical care deductions.
Allows states to waive key insurance rules, like community rating of health insurance and essential health benefits. Creates a fund that states could use to lower costs for those adversely affected by the waiver.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported the AHCA would increase the number of uninsured Americans under age 65 by 14 million in fiscal year 2018, eventually reaching 23 million more by 2026.3 A RAND analysis of an earlier version of the bill was similar: 14 million more uninsured in 2020 and 20 million in 2026.4

This report examines the potential economic effects of the AHCA from calendar years 2018 to 2026, including:

    • employment levels, measured as changes in the number of jobs created or lost due to policy changes
    • state economic growth, as measured by changes in gross state products in current dollars, adjusted for inflation; an aggregate measure of state economies, analogous to the gross domestic product at the national level

state business output,

    as measured by changes in business receipts in current dollars at production, wholesale, and retail levels, encompassing multiple levels of business activity.

Our estimates are based on changes in federal funding gained or lost to states, consumers, and businesses. The AHCA significantly reduces federal funding for Medicaid. It lowers federal match funding for the 31 states and District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid, encouraging them to discontinue their expansions. It gives states an option to either adopt per capita allotments for Medicaid or fixed block grants; either option lowers federal Medicaid expenditures. Eliminating the tax penalty for individuals without health insurance reduces incentives to purchase insurance, raising the number of uninsured people. Restructuring premium tax credits and widening age-related differences in premiums are expected to shrink nongroup insurance coverage and reduce federal spending for health insurance subsidies. The AHCA is designed so that tax cuts take effect sooner than reductions in health insurance subsidies. Thus, state employment and economies could grow at first but shrink in later years as the coverage reductions deepen.

How Federal Health Funding Stimulates Job Creation and State Economies

Federal health funds are used to purchase health care. Then, fiscal effects ripple out through the rest of the economy, creating employment and other economic growth. This phenomenon is called the multiplier effect. Health funds directly pay hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers; this is the direct effect of federal funding. These facilities use revenue to pay their employees and buy goods and services, such as rent or equipment; this is the indirect effect of the initial spending. In addition, there are induced effects that occur as health care employees or other businesses (and eventually their workers) use their income to purchase consumer goods like housing, transportation, or food, producing sales for a diverse range of businesses. Similarly, when federal taxes are reduced, consumers or businesses retain income and can purchase goods and services, invest, or save. Due to interstate commerce, each type of effect can flow across state lines.

Both government spending increases and tax reductions can stimulate job creation and economic growth. The relative effects depend on how the funds are used. Government spending or transfers, like health insurance subsidies, typically have stronger multiplier effects in stimulating consumption and economic growth than do tax cuts. Tax cuts usually aid people with high incomes who shift much of their gains into savings, stimulating less economic activity.5,6,7 A recent analysis found that 90 percent of the AHCA’s tax cuts go to the top one-fifth of the population by income.8

This report estimates how the AHCA will change federal funds gained or lost for all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2018 to 2026. We allocate federal funding changes, based on CBO estimates, for each state. We then analyze how federal funding changes ripple through state economies, using the PI+ economic model, developed by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI).9 (See Appendix B. Study Methods.)

Findings

Overall Effects

As illustrated in Exhibit 2, most of the AHCA’s tax repeals begin almost at once, while coverage-related spending reductions phase in. The net effect initially raises the federal deficit. In 2018, the number of jobs would rise by 864,000 and state economies would grow. Health sector employment begins to fall immediately in 2018, with a loss of 24,000 jobs, and continues dropping to 725,000 health jobs lost by 2026 (Exhibit 3). Most other employment sectors gain initially, but then drop off and experience losses.

By 2020, the reduction in federal funding for coverage would roughly equal the total level of tax cuts. By the following year, 2021, coverage reductions outpace tax cuts. As a result, there are 205,000 fewer jobs than without the AHCA and state economies begin to shrink.

By 2026, 924,000 fewer people would have jobs. Gross state products would drop by $93 billion and business output would be $148 billion lower. These downward trends would continue after 2026.

Looking at Coverage-Related and Tax Repeal Policies

To better understand how the AHCA affects state economies and employment, Exhibit 4 looks at the two major components of the AHCA separately. The coverage-related policies (Title I of the AHCA and sections related to premium tax credits and individual and employer mandates) generally lower federal spending, particularly due to cuts to Medicaid and premium tax credits. Some policies partially offset those large cuts, such as the Patient and State Stability Fund. The tax repeal policies (Title II, except for sections about premium tax credits and individual and employer mandates), such as repeal of Medicare-related taxes, Cadillac tax, or medical device tax, predominantly help people with high incomes or selected businesses.

Implemented alone, the coverage-related policies would lead to steep job losses over time, reaching 1.9 million by 2026, driven by deep Medicaid cuts (Exhibit 4). Job losses begin to mount in 2019.

Alternatively, the tax repeal policies on their own would be associated with higher employment and state economic growth. Gains begin with 837,000 more jobs in 2018; this rises through 2024, and leads to 1 million additional jobs in 2026. Combined, tax repeal and coverage-related changes lead to initial economic and employment growth but eventual losses.

The detailed employment results show how these two components of the AHCA affect different economic sectors. Coverage and spending-related policies are directly related to funding for health services (e.g., Medicaid, premium tax credits, high-risk pools). The reductions directly affect the health sector—hospitals, doctors’ offices, or pharmacies—but then flow out to other sectors. Thus, about two-fifths of jobs lost due to coverage policies are in the health sector while three-fifths are in other sectors. Tax changes affect consumption broadly, spreading effects over most job sectors.

Within the health sector, job losses due to coverage-related cuts are much greater than gains due to tax repeal; losses in health care jobs begin immediately. In other sectors, employment grows at the beginning but later declines.

State-Level Effects

Consequences differ from state to state. We summarize data for nine states: Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Exhibit 5 shows the effects of the AHCA in 2018 and in 2026. Complete results for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are available in Appendices A1–A4. In this analysis, states that expanded Medicaid tend to experience deeper and faster economic declines, although substantial losses occur even among nonexpansion states:

  • Eight of the nine states (Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) begin with positive economic and employment effects in 2018, but are worse off by 2026, with outcomes typically turning negative well before 2026.
  • Michigan is worse off in 2018 and continues to decline through 2026. We assume Michigan will terminate its Medicaid expansion immediately because of a state law that automatically cancels the expansion if the federal matching rate changes.10 Six other states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington) have similar legislation and experience losses sooner than other states.
  • Most job losses are in health care. In six states (Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia) health care job losses begin in 2018, but all nine states have significant reductions in health employment by 2026. Looking at the U.S. overall, in most states, losses in health care jobs begin by 2020 (Appendix A2).
  • States that expanded Medicaid have deeper and faster losses. Having earned more federal funds, they lose more when Medicaid matching rates fall. While cutting funds to states that expanded health insurance for low-income Medicaid populations, the bill temporarily increases funding to states that did not expand Medicaid. Nonetheless, states that did not expand Medicaid, like Florida and Maine, experience job and economic losses after a few years. In fact, Florida has the third-highest level of job loss in the nation by 2026.
  • Other factors that can affect the size of economic and employment effects include:
    • the extent to which states gained coverage in the ACA health insurance marketplaces; states with higher marketplace enrollment tend to lose more
    • the cost of health insurance in the state; the new tax credits are the same regardless of location, making insurance less affordable in high-cost states and reducing participation
    • age structure; older people will find insurance less affordable
    • state population size; the population size of states magnifies their losses or gains
    • other factors that affect tax distribution, like number of residents with investment income or high incomes or whether medical device or pharmaceutical manufacturers are located in the state.

Overall, the 10 states with the largest job losses by 2026 are: New York (86,000), Pennsylvania (85,000), Florida (83,000), Michigan (51,000), Illinois (46,000), New Jersey (42,000), Ohio (42,000), North Carolina (41,000), California (32,000), and Tennessee (28,000). Forty-seven states have job losses by 2026; four states (Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington) have small job gains in 2026, but would likely incur losses in another year or two (Appendix A1).

Conclusions

The House bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would greatly reduce the number of people with insurance coverage, effectively reversing gains made since the law’s enactment. The AHCA would initially create more employment and economic growth, driven by a federal deficit increase in 2018 and 2019, but the effects turn negative as coverage reductions deepen, with job losses and lower economic growth beginning in 2021. By 2026, 924,000 jobs would be lost, gross state products would be $93 billion lower, and business output could fall by $148 billion.

Health care has been one of the main areas of job growth in recent years.11 Under the AHCA, the sector would lose jobs immediately, with a loss of 24,000 jobs in 2018. By 2026, 725,000 fewer health sector jobs would exist. This would be a major reversal from current trends. While our analysis shows other employment sectors grow initially, most other sectors would experience losses within a decade.

It may be useful to look at these findings in a macroeconomic context. The U.S. unemployment rate for May 2017 was 4.3 percent, the lowest in 16 years and about half as high as during the recent recession. When unemployment is low, additional job growth creates a tighter labor market, so that businesses often have greater difficulties filling job vacancies. In turn, this can accelerate inflation.

It is likely that the business cycle will eventually slow down again. In that event, the AHCA could accentuate job loss and economic contraction. Combined with major increases in the number of uninsured, this could contribute to a period of economic and medical hardship in the U.S. The AHCA could exaggerate both the highs and lows of the business cycle. From a national policy perspective, it may be more useful to develop countercyclical policies that strengthen employment and the economy during times of contraction.

This analysis finds that the net effect of the AHCA would be a loss of almost 1 million jobs by 2026, combined with 23 million more Americans without health insurance, according to the CBO. In late May, the Trump administration released its budget proposal, which appears to propose an additional $610 billion in Medicaid cuts, beyond those included in the AHCA.12 Such deep cuts would further deepen the employment and economic losses discussed in this study.

This analysis has many limitations. We do not know whether or when the AHCA or an alternative will be enacted into law. Alternative policies could yield different effects. We focus only on the consequences of the AHCA. Other legislation, such as infrastructure, trade, national security, or tax policies, may be considered by Congress and might also affect economic growth and employment.

These projections, like others, are fraught with uncertainty. Economic, technical, or policy changes could alter results. In particular, the AHCA grants substantial discretion to states, such as in Medicaid expansions, waivers of federal regulations, and use of new funds like the Patient and State Stability Fund. While this analysis is aligned with CBO’s national estimates, we developed state-level projections, introducing further uncertainty. Our approach conservatively spreads changes across states and may underestimate the highs and lows for individual states.

See original article Here.

Source:

Ku, L., Steinmetz, E., Brantley, E., Holla, N., Bruen, B. (14 June 2017). The American Health Care Act: Economic and Employment Consequences for States. [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2017/jun/ahca-economic-and-employment-consequences


Would States Eliminate Key Benefits if AHCA Waivers are Enacted?

If lower premiums were a possibility, would states actually enact waivers to exclude certain essential health benefits? Check out this article from the Kaiser Family Foundation to learn more about the possible result of giving states the power to use waivers when it comes to healthcare coverage.

As the debate over amending health insurance market rules continues, proponents of changing the law have proposed reducing the health benefits provided by non-group plans as a potential way to lower premiums in the market.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prescribes 10 categories of essential health benefits that non-group and small-group policies must cover, and provides in most cases that the scope of these benefits should be similar to those in employer group health plans, which cover most non-elderly Americans.  The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed the House of Representatives on May 5, would permit states to seek waivers to amend the required benefits if doing so would achieve one of several purposes, including lowering premiums.1  We look below at the benefits covered by non-group plans before the ACA as a possible indication of how states could respond to the waiver authority under the AHCA.

Background

The lack of coverage for benefits such as maternity and mental health care in many nongroup plans, which was a frequent point of criticism when the ACA was debated, was one (but not the only) reason why non-group coverage was less expensive before the ACA was enacted.  In the pre-ACA market, certain benefits were excluded to make coverage more affordable and to guard against potential adverse selection by applicants with more predictable, chronic health care needs.  Even with the ability to medically screen applicants for non-group policies, some insurers excluded coverage for conditions such as mental health and substance abuse care unless states required that they be covered.

States determined coverage requirements for health insurance policies prior to the ACA.  A few states defined a standard benefit package to be offered by insurers in the nongroup market.  Most states adopted some mandates to cover or offer specific benefits or benefit categories – such as requirements for policies to cover maternity benefits or mental health treatments. In addition to deciding which categories of benefits must be included or offered, states might also specify a minimum level or scope of coverage; for example, a few states required that mental health benefits have similar cost sharing and limits as other outpatient services (sometimes called parity).

Pre-ACA non-group plans varied considerably in scope and comprehensiveness of coverage, with some plans limiting benefit categories or putting caps on benefits, while others offered more comprehensive options.  For example, some plans did not cover prescriptions, others covered only generic medications or covered a broader range of medications subject to an annual cap, while still others covered a more complete range of medications.  This diversity was possible because insurers generally were able to decline applicants with pre-existing conditions, and could require their existing customers to pass screening if they wanted to upgrade to more comprehensive benefits.  This prevented applicants from selecting the level of coverage they wanted based on their known health conditions, but also prevented many people from being able to obtain non-group coverage at all.

To look more closely at the benefits provided in pre-ACA non-group plans, we analyzed data submitted by insurers for display on HealthCare.gov for the last quarter of 2013.  Beginning in 2010, insurers submitted information about their non-group plans to be displayed on HealthCare.gov; the data includes information on benefits, coverage levels for each benefit, benefit limits, premiums and cost sharing parameters, and enrollment.  We focus here on the benefits and benefit limits.  We use data from 2013 because it is the most current year prior to when the ACA’s major insurance market changes went into effect, provides more benefit categories than some earlier years, and has more information about benefit limits for each category.  We note, however, that the ACA prohibition on annual dollar limits took effect shortly after enactment and was phased in between 2010 and 2013, so these types of limits would likely not be reflected often in data we received. This means that our analysis likely misses some of the limits (for example, dollar limits on prescriptions) that existed in nongroup policies before the ACA was enacted.  We limit the analysis to plans where insurers report enrollment in the product upon which the plan is based.  Our methods are described in more detail in the appendix.

Results

The data include 8,343 unique plans across 50 states and the District of Columbia.  We looked at the percentage of plans that included coverage for major benefit categories.  Not surprisingly, all of the plans covered basic benefits such as inpatient hospital services, inpatient physician and surgical services, emergency room services, and imaging services, while virtually all (99%) covered outpatient physician/surgical services,  primary care visits, home health care services, and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services.

Certain other benefits, however, were covered much less often (Figure 1).  Large shares of plans did not provide coverage for inpatient or outpatient mental/behavioral health care services (38% each), inpatient or outpatient substance abuse disorder services (45% each), and delivery and inpatient care for maternity care (75%).2 In addition, 6% of plans did not provide coverage for generic drugs, 11% did not provide coverage for preferred brand drugs, 17% did not provide coverage for non-preferred brand drugs, and 13% did not provide coverage for specialty drugs.

Even when coverage was provided, some policies had meaningful limits or restrictions for certain benefits.  Mental/behavioral health care is a case in point.  Among plans with coverage for outpatient mental/behavioral health services, 23% limited benefits for some or all mental/behavioral services to fewer than 30 visits or sessions over a defined period (often a year) and 12% limited it to 12 or fewer.  A small share (about 5%) of plans providing coverage for outpatient mental/behavioral health services provided benefits only for conditions defined as severe mental disorders or biologically-based illnesses or applied limits (such as visit limits) if the illness was not defined as severe or biologically based.  The definitions of these terms varied by state.3

Similarly, for plans covering outpatient substance abuse disorder services, 22% limited the benefit to fewer than 30 visits or sessions; 12% limited it to 12 or fewer. In many of these plans, visits for either mental health or substance abuse care were combined to apply toward the same limit.

Among the relatively few plans that provided coverage for delivery and inpatient maternity care, a small share (3%) applied separate deductibles of at least $5,000 for maternity services and some plans (6%) applied a separate waiting period of at least year before benefits were available.  A few plans restricted benefits to enrollees enrolled in family coverage or required that the enrollee’s spouse also be enrolled.

Discussion

The ACA raised the range of benefits provided by non-group policies such that the benefits now offered by non-group plans are comparable to those offered in employer group plans.  The desire to lower non-group premiums, however, has led policymakers to consider allowing states to roll back the essential health benefits prescribed by the ACA.

Among the pre-ACA policies we reviewed, virtually all included benefits for certain services: hospital, physician, surgical, emergencies, imaging, and rehabilitation.  Other services were covered less often, including prescription drugs, mental/behavioral health care, substance abuse disorder care, and coverage for pregnancy and delivery.  This latter group of services all have some element of predictability or persistency that make them more subject to adverse selection. For example, many people use drug therapies over long periods and would be much more likely to select policies covering prescriptions than people who do not regularly use prescription drugs. If states were to drop any of these services from the list of essential health benefits for non-group plans, access to them could be significantly reduced.

The difficulty is that insurers would be very reluctant to offer some of these services unless they were required in all policies because people who need these benefits would disproportionately select policies covering them. In the pre-ACA market, insurers were able to offer products with different levels of benefits because they generally were able to control who could purchase them by medically screening new applicants.  Even existing customers faced medical screening if they wanted to change to a more comprehensive policy at renewal.  Through these practices, insurers were able to avoid the situation where people could choose cheaper policies when they were healthy and upgrade to better benefits when their health worsened. The proposed AHCA market rules, however, would not guard against this type of adverse selection, because people with pre-existing health conditions would be able to select any policy offered at a standard premium rate, and change their selection annually without incurring a penalty, as long as they maintained continuous coverage. This means that the range of benefits provided by insurers in states with essential health benefit waivers would likely be more limited than what insurers offered in the pre-ACA non-group market.  Benefit choice might be particularly limited in states that specify only a few benefits as essential.

It is hard to imagine that insurers would cover certain benefits if they were not required.  For example, some insurers before the ACA did not offer mental health benefits unless required by a state, even when they could medically screen all of the applicants.  And given the current problems with substance abuse in many communities, insurers would be reluctant to include coverage to treat them unless required. Offering these benefits as an option (for example, including them in some policies but not in others), would result in very high premiums for optional benefits because people who know they need them would be much more likely to choose them.

The AHCA presents state policymakers with a dilemma: they can reduce the essential health benefits to allow less expensive insurance options for their residents, but doing so may eliminate access to certain benefits for people who want and need them.

See original article Here.

Source:

Claxton, G., Pollitz, K., Semanskee, A., Levitt, L. (14 June 2017) Would States Eliminate Key Benefits if AHCA Waivers are Enacted? [Web Blog Post] Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/would-states-eliminate-key-benefits-if-ahca-waivers-are-enacted/