Posts Tagged - ‘business health insurance’

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Rhode Island Health Insurance Premiums To Increase

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Image: taberandrew under CC 3.0

Bad news for Rhode Island health insurance consumers: the insurance commissioner just approved several premium increases.

The health insurance rate hikes, which become effective next year, are as follows:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island: 9.8% for small and large business health insurance
  • United HealthCare: 12.3% for firms with under 50 employees, and 8.4% for larger companies
  • Tufts: 11% and 10.2%, respectively

On the bright side, these rate hikes are lower than those originally requested.

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Should Hospitals Pay For Small Business Health Insurance Plans?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

For now, this is only happening in Massachusetts, but it could spread nationwide: hospitals are now required to make a one-time contribution to a fund that subsidizes the purchase of health insurance plans by small businesses. They will pay the insurers directly, and the health insurance companies will refund eligible businesses for two years.

After only one major hospital system–Partners HealthCare–agreed to contribute voluntarily, the State Senate President included a provision that forces them to pay $100 million to the fund. The amounts will be split based on the hospitals’ profit margins and the makeup of their patient populations.

According to supporters, small business health insurance premiums will drop by 2.5% as a result of the subsidy–although they acknowledge that it’s only a temporary solution. Detractors, including the Massachusetts Hospital Association, are worried that the mandatory assessments will negatively impact the finances of and quality of care from their facilities.

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Do Wellness Incentives Make Health Insurance Cheaper?

Monday, January 25th, 2010

An increasing number of employers have launched company wellness initiatives. These programs are promoted as relatively low-cost ways to promote the good health of employees. They also promise to lower group health insurance costs. The logic is simple: a healthier workforce costs less to insure. Usually, employees can opt in the wellness program: if they do, they are then tested on health-related measures including cholesterol, weight, and high blood pressure. Then, the employee has a certain amount of time (often one year) to improve those health measures if they are currently unacceptable. If he or she lowers their cholesterol level or decreases their weight to a healthy body mass index, his or her health insurance premium goes down. Conversely, if he or she continues to have a high BMI, for example, health insurance rates will increase.

Supporters of wellness incentives claim that it gives employees more reponsibility over their health care and encourages them to engage in preventative care, as opposed to relying on their medical insurance to treat them after the fact. However, such incentives do not appear to have lowered health care costs. Grocery store chain Safeway, whose CEO has heavily promoted such reforms in Congress, did not keep health insurance costs flat after enacting the policy. Rather, the percentage of revenue spent on employee health insurance continued to rise; in 2009, Safeway’s costs actually increased more than the national average!

Republican and Democratic politicians alike have pointed to Safeway as a model for healthcare reform. In fact, the Senate’s legislation would double the penalties and rewards that could be tied to the results of wellness tests (as opposed to the act of simply participating in wellness programs). The wellness test portion of the program was under a year old when its so-called reduction in health care spending was praised. It seems that praise may have been premature.

(Image: Pink Sherbet Photography under CC 2.0)

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