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June 2010

June 25, 2010 by  
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Choosing The Right Deductible
One of the most common employer strategies to control the cost of medical insurance is to change the plan deductible. Our friends at Providence Health Plan have compiled some interesting data about what raising your deductible means to your employees. Their numbers seem to support what we at LSA have observed; that 80% of employees will utilize less than $1,000 in healthcare in any given year and that 20% of a population will account for roughly 80% of the overall claims.

Choosing the Right Deductible

 
Medical Home: Reinventing Primary Care
We're often asked what real healthcare reform might look like. A good start would be any regulation or change that eliminates waste and redundancy within the current healthcare delivery system. The "Medical Home" model is gaining popularity and may hold some potential for reducing healthcare costs. A recent article in American Medical News outlines this interesting concept.

Medical Home Article

 
 
Five Painful Healthcare Lessons from Massachusetts
The best guide to how President Obama's historic healthcare legislation will reshape the nation's medical marketplace and fiscal future is the pioneering model in Massachusetts. The Bay State's reform program started in late 2006, and it shares virtually all the major features of the new federal plan.

Lessons from Massachusetts

 
 
 
Larry Sherwood & Associates provides benefits consulting & insurance services to over 300 companies just like yours.
 

December 2009

December 20, 2009 by  
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President Obama Extends Cobra Subsidy
As part of the Department of Defense bill, the extension of the COBRA subsidy was enacted by the Senate and signed by President Obama. It extends eligibility for the subsidy to those individuals terminated through February 2010 and extends the period of payments eligibility for the subsidy to 15 months (from 9 months). Employers have 60 days from the bill's enactment to send notices to all impacted individuals regarding the extended period (late February 2010).

Department of Labor Link

 
Healthcare Reform
On November 18th LSA hosted a client luncheon at the Century Hotel in Tualatin. The topic was the hotly debated reform efforts of our elected officials in Congress. Attendees learned about the bills moving through both houses of Congress and their likely impact to both individuals and businesses. Our intent is to present an updated version of this seminar in January via the web. For those who were not able to attend the seminar we are including a copy of it (as a PDF document) for your convenience.

Healthcare Reform Slideshow

 
 
Happy Holidays and "Thank You"
It seems appropriate, at this time of year, to take a moment from our busy schedules to wish you all the joys of the season and the hopes and promises of a new year. Of all that we have to be thankful for, we certainly count our business relationships at the top of the list.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Larry Sherwood & Associates.

 
 
 
Larry Sherwood & Associates provides benefits consulting & insurance services to over 300 companies just like yours.
 

October 2009

October 25, 2009 by  
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State of Oregon Regulates Small Group Rates
A question we are frequently asked by our small group clients(under 51 employees) is "how did my insurance company come up with those rates?" The short answer is the insurance companies file for approval with the state of Oregon who either accepts, rejects or modifies that basic rating model. Plans are allowed variance within a specified range from that baseline. Unfortunately for small business, neither your broker nor the insurance company can alter those rates. In fact, given the same census, rates will be identical broker to broker. It is with this fact in mind that Larry Sherwood & Associates constantly strives to improve and expand services. Remember, "price is only important in the absence of value".
 
What Groceries Can Teach Us About Healthcare Reform
Imagine a 4 year span with no rate increases from your health insurance carrier. That's exactly what grocery giant Safeway has experienced since implementing an innovative wellness program in 2005. The program incentivizes employees to choose healthy behaviors and rewards them with lower insurance premiums. The plan isn't without its detractors however, who feel it punishes employees who are genetically pre-dispositioned to illness. The attached article written by Safeway's CEO outlines some concepts that we may be able to help you incorporate in to your employee benefit plan.

How Safeway is Cutting Health-Care Costs
 
 
Tort Reform Could Save $54 Billion
Placing limits on medical malpractice awards, "tort reform", has been discussed for years. It now appears to be gaining traction. In Mr. Obama's landmark healthcare reform speech on September 9th he alluded to the fact that he would support such reform. Also, Congressional budget analysts said Friday that lawmakers could save as much as $54 billion over the next decade by imposing an array of new limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. Such malpractice limits would have a positive impact on both hard and soft costs associated with health care. The attached article does a nice job explaining.

Tort Reform Could Save $54 Billion

 
 
 
Larry Sherwood & Associates provides benefits consulting & insurance services to over 300 companies just like yours.
 

September 2009

September 25, 2009 by  
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Exec-U-Care Offers Owners and Officers the Benefits of an FSA
A unique product from Lincoln Financial offers the same tax benefits of a Section 125 plan to company owners and corporate executives. Exec-U-Care is designed to supplement a company's major medical plan by reimbursing executives and eligible dependents for health care expenses not covered by the basic group plan. Expenses such as deductible, coinsurance and copayments can be reimbursed directly to qualified executives. Payments made to participants are, typically, tax free AND tax deductible as "premiums" to the corporation. Talk to your broker for additional details about this unique tax-advantaged product.

Exec-U-Care Website

 
President Obama Endorses an LSA Reform Idea
When asked recently about the idea of taxing sugar beverages and/or "fast food", President Obama would not rule out the tempting source of tax revenue. His, somewhat, surprising response echoes what we at LSA have been suggesting for quite some time. Studies have found that up to 75% of current medical expenditures can be avoided or prevented. The billions spent each year to treat what amounts to unhealthy lifestyle choices is placing an unsustainable burden on community insurance rates. If you accept the principal of a "sin tax" then can a tax on sugar and transfat be far behind?

Also, check out the "20 worst drinks in America" link, it's a great eye opener!

Should Soda Be Taxed?

Worst Drinks in America

 
 
Medicare Part D Credible Coverage Notices Due No Later than November 15th
By November 15, 2009 (beginning of the annual Medicare coordinated election period), groups that offer prescription drug coverage to employees or retirees should notify their members of the creditable coverage status of their plan and of possible penalties for late enrollment in Medicare Part D if their current coverage is not creditable.

As defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, coverage is considered "creditable" if its actuarial value equals or exceeds the actuarial value of standard prescription drug coverage under the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

The Medicare Modernization Act imposes a late enrollment penalty on individuals who do not maintain creditable coverage for a period of 63 days or longer following their initial enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Most prescription drug plans qualify as "creditable". If you have questions about your plan, please contact us at Larry Sherwood & Associates.

Department of Labor Link

 
 
 
Larry Sherwood & Associates provides benefits consulting & insurance services to over 300 companies just like yours.
 

August 2009

August 25, 2009 by  
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Surgery And Vacation? A Little Something Known As 'Medical Tourism'
Americans and insurers are getting creative in their efforts to save money and drive down the cost of healthcare. Medical tourism, or in plain English, traveling abroad to receive necessary or elective medical services is growing in popularity. Procedures done overseas can be done for thousands and sometime tens of thousands of dollars less and with much the same outcomes as those done in the states, but it's not without its risks.

Insurers aim to save from overseas medical tourism
 

 
Health Insurance Companies Make Shopping A Little Easier
Cost transparency or our ability to comparison shop for medical services was recently made much easier by insurers in Oregon. Along with some other useful tools health insurance companies now include on their websites the ability for insureds to estimate the cost of, and shop for, the best deal on medical procedures.
This Oregonian article comments on a few of the more popular Oregon insurers. See how your company ranks.

Health care comparison shopping gets easier
 

 
 
Kaiser Singled Out As An Example of Potential Healthcare Reform
Love Kaiser or hate Kaiser one cannot deny the unique advantages that their healhcare financing model presents. The Oregonian recently hailed the group practice model HMO as a model for healthcare reform.

Northwest HMOs cited as alternatives to a government-run health plan

Canada is often sited as a model for healthcare reform so we thought you might like to see some interesting statistics, provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), about where Canada and the U.S. rank amongst other industrialized nations when it come to healthcare.

OECD Health Data 2009
 

 
 
 
Larry Sherwood & Associates provides benefits consulting & insurance services to over 300 companies just like yours.