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Gen Z, Millennials Grow Disillusioned with Their Health Insurance

Surprise bills and billing errors are driving growing dissatisfaction among Millennials and Gen Zers with their health insurance, a new study has found.

HealthCare.com‘s “2022 Medical Debt Survey” found that about one in four Gen Zers and Millennials with medical debt skipped rent or mortgage payments because of their debt. That’s compared with 21% for Gen Xers and 12% for baby boomers.

The study reflects the increasing burden that health insurers’ policies for out-of-network care and higher deductibles are having on Americans, particularly those who are the most recent entrants to the job market. Since they typically earn less than those who have more experience, Millennials and Gen Zers are more susceptible to hardships if they receive unexpected bills.

To help these generations of workers, consider offering them educational sessions on how to choose health plans, coupled with training on how to avoid unexpected health care bills by going to in-network providers, and how to shop around in advance for scheduled procedures.

Already facing outsized medical cost hits, an increase in billing mistakes and surprise bills is contributing to a dim view of health insurance among Millennials and Gen Zers. In fact, 68% of Gen Zers who have health insurance but still incurred medical debt said their health insurance plan didn’t cover the service they received (or they received services out-of-network).

Additionally, the study found that:

  • 39% of Millennials are unsatisfied with their health insurance options.
  • About three in 10 Gen Zers (31%) and Millennials (27%) with medical debt believe that their debt is the result of a billing error.
  • 48% of Millennials have received a surprise medical bill.
  • 35% of Millennials have received a mistaken bill or had a claim denied.
  • 26% of Millennials have medical debt.

Affordability of health insurance is also a big consideration. Some 54% of Millennials say their health insurance is somewhat or very affordable.

Millennials are also using their health insurance benefits differently than prior generations:

  • 48% say they have used an urgent care center in the past. These visits can often cost more than a typical visit, but not as much as going to the emergency room.
  • 35% have used telehealth services for physical ailments.
  • 26% have sought mental health services through telehealth platforms.
  • 27% have used discount pharmacy apps.

The takeaway

The key to improving your younger generation workers’ understanding of their health benefits and how best to use them is through education. It starts with perhaps having a special session during each open enrollment focusing on what type of health plans are best suited for their generation.

If you offer high-deductible health plans, educate your staff on the importance of putting money aside in health savings accounts so they have money to pay for those unexpected expenses.

They should also be educated in how to use their health insurance to avoid larger costs, and the ramifications of using providers not in their health plan’s network. The education should also cover the costs of going to an emergency room compared to scheduling an appointment with their doctor or going to an evening clinic at their office.

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Health Insurance Considerations for Workers Who Move Out of State

One fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in the number of Americans who are working from home permanently.

With so many people being freed from the yokes of the office, many have chosen to move to other states for a variety of lifestyle or cost reasons. But while these arrangements can be a boon for workers, they can make it difficult when it comes to your workers’ group health insurance.

One of the main stumbling blocks is that most group plans are local or regional at best, as they contract with providers and hospitals in the area where an employer is located.

For employers that suddenly have staff now working far afield from their headquarters, securing health insurance coverage in other states can create headaches, particularly if they have contracted with a local or regional insurer.

And to make matters worse, some employees who are working remotely don’t bother telling their employers they are moving, which can render their coverage obsolete if they locate to a place out of their insurance policy’s coverage area.

Remote employees who fail to inform their employers when they relocate could suddenly find themselves in an area with no access to their insurer’s preferred network and they could have their claims denied if they seek out medical care. To avoid this issue, consider instituting a policy that they have to inform you of any move to another state.

What you can do

If all of your staff are working in a single location, city or state, there are usually plenty of options for group health insurance. But if you now have people working out of state, you have choices to make for how to get them covered.

Many national insurance companies don’t have the same type of network in every state, and even among those that do, health care providers may not offer the most cost-efficient networks for out-of-state employees.

Some carriers offer national group health plans that are available to employees in most states. If you now find yourself with employees who are scattered around the country, a national plan helps you avoid having to comply with different state regulations and finding carriers with good networks in other states.

In these types of plans, all of the employees in your organization receive the same group benefits regardless of where they live and work, and they all have access to the same quality coverage.

But there are just a handful of carriers that offer this type of group coverage. Talk to us if you want to know more.

One option is to find local coverage for employees in specific locations, but if you don’t have many employees in that region, you may not be able to find preferable rates for their group coverage.

If that is too difficult, you can set up a taxable stipend that your employees could use to purchase their own health insurance. A stipend is a fixed amount of money paid to an employee in addition to their basic salary, designed to cover whatever extra costs the employer allows, such as health insurance, internet and other expenses.

The takeaway

As more U.S. companies have workforces spread across many states, health insurance needs to be on the top of the list of considerations.

The health insurance you choose will depend largely on your budget and coverage preferences, and what is available to your staff in the state they are working in.

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2022 Health Insurance Outlook, Changes

As we enter 2022, there are a number of changes on the horizon that plan sponsors need to be aware of as they will affect group health plans as well as employees enrolled in those plans.

Some of the changes concern temporary rules that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, new rulemaking is likely to be introduced in 2022 that will affect health plans, including non-discrimination rules for wellness plans and new rules governing what must be included on insurance plan ID cards.

Here’s a list of what to expect in 2022.

HDHP telehealth services — The CARES Act, signed into law in 2020 after the pandemic started, temporarily allowed high-deductible health plans to pay for telehealth services before an enrollee had met their deductible.

That comes to an end Dec. 31, 2021, and for plan years that start on or after Jan. 1, 2022, HDHPs must charge enrollees for telehealth services if they have not yet met their deductible.

Mid-year election changes — The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) and ensuing guidance from the IRS relaxed a number of rules that will come to an end for plans incepting on or after Jan. 1, 2022. These rules were all not mandatory and employers could choose whether to relax them or not.

Here are the rules that will sunset at the end of 2021:

  • Allowing employees who had declined group health insurance for the 2021 plan year to sign up for coverage.
  • Allowing employees who had enrolled in one health plan option under their group health plan to change to another plan (such as switching insurance carriers or opting for a silver plan instead of a bronze plan).
  • For health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), allowing participants to enroll mid-year, increase or decrease their annual contribution amount, or pull out of the plan altogether and stop contributing.
  • For plan years ending in 2020 and 2021, permitting employers to modify their FSAs to include a grace period of up to 12 months to spend unused funds from the prior policy year.
  • Allowing for a higher FSA carryover amount than the typical $500.

Any plans that allowed these changes would have to have been amended to reflect that, and for 2022 they’ll have to be amended to reflect reverting to the old rules that forbid such changes.

Affordability level falls — Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent workers are required to provide health coverage to at least 95% of their full-time employees. The ACA requires that the coverage is “affordable” for the worker, which is set as a percentage of their household income.

For 2022, the affordability level will be 9.61% of their household income, down from 9.83% in 2021.

Electronic filing threshold drops — Starting in 2022, employers with 100 or more workers will be required file their 2021 ACA-related tax forms with the IRS electronically, as a result of changes brough on by the Taxpayer First Act. That’s a change from the prior threshold of 250. This applies to forms 1094-C, 1095-C, 1094-B and 1094-B.

While the IRS has yet to release guidance for this change, it’s expected it will do so by the end of 2021.

More guidance coming

The CAA created a number of new requirements that affect health insurance and coverage. Look for various government agencies, chiefly the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to provide new guidance on:

Insurance plan identification cards — Part of the CAA requires health plans and issuers to include information about deductibles, out-of-pocket maximum limitations and contact information for assistance on any ID cards issued to enrollees on or after Jan. 1, 2022.

Continuity of care requirements — The CAA also requires insurers to offer anyone who is a “continuing care patient” of a provider or facility the option to elect to continue to receive care for up to 90 days from the provider or facility, even when there’s a change in that provider’s contract status with a health plan that could normally result in a loss of covered benefits.

If certain conditions apply, this transitional care would be provided as if the contractual relationship with the provider had not changed.

Wellness program incentives — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to issue new regulations on what kind of incentives are permissible for employer-sponsored wellness programs. The main focus is on incentives and if they are discriminatory to some workers.

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Rules Allowing Mid-Year Health Plan, FSA Changes Will Sunset

A temporary rule that allowed covered employees to make mid-year election changes to their health plans and revisit how much they set aside into their flexible spending accounts (FSAs) will sunset at the end of the year.

The rules gave employers the option to allow their employees to make changes to their health plans, including choosing a new offering, but it did not require that they allow them to make these changes.

The more relaxed rules were the result of provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which was signed into law in December 2020 by President Trump, and subsequent regulatory guidance by the IRS.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS liberalized the rules for cafeteria plan mid-year election changes for health plans and FSAs in the 2021 plan year. During 2021, employers may permit employees to make election changes without affecting their status. The rules that were relaxed:

  • Allow employees who had declined group health insurance for the 2021 plan year to sign up for coverage.
  • Allow employees who have enrolled in one health plan option under their group health plan to change to another plan (such as switching insurance carriers or opting for a silver plan instead of a bronze plan).
  • For health FSAs, allow participants to enroll mid-year, increase or decrease their annual contribution amount, or pull out of the plan altogether and stop contributing.
  • For plan years ending in 2020 and 2021, employers are permitted to modify their health FSAs to include a grace period of up to 12 months to spend unused funds from the prior policy year.
  • Allow for a higher carryover amount than the typical $500.

But, all plans that take effect on or after Jan. 1, 2022 will revert to the old rules that bar mid-year election changes and limit the grace period for spending unused FSA funds to just two and half months after the end of the prior policy year.

The takeaway

The rules coming to an end will only affect those employers who opted to allow their employees to make changes to their health plan choices and/or their FSAs. If you didn’t make this move, there is nothing you need to do.

If you did permit your staff to make these mid-year changes, you will need to communicate to them as soon as possible and before and during open enrollment that mid-year changes will not be possible in 2022.

When telling them about the rules change, make sure to inform them of the permanent rules and when they take effect again.

Also, if you extended the grace period and/or the carryover amount for FSAs, inform them that the carryover grace period will revert to two and half months and that the maximum carryover amount will revert to $500.

"Helath
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Alternative Group Plan Funding Gets a Second Look

Watching their group health plan premiums climb higher with each passing year, some employers start looking into alternative funding strategies in hopes they can get a better handle on their employees’ health costs.

While group plans are the standard, larger employers have typically had more options for funding their group health coverage. But now even small and medium-sized employers – even companies with fewer than 100 employees – can benefit from alternative funding approaches.

There are three main types of alternative funding strategies that are available to employers:

  • Captives
  • Private exchanges
  • Full and partial self-funding.

Captives

With a captive, multiple employers pool their resources and share the risk in providing health insurance to their employees. It is essentially a self-insured pool built into a captive insurance company (an insurer that is owned by the entity that created it). The captive has staff that will administer the health plan.

Captives are also multi-year agreements, so once an employer commits to make it worth their investment, they need to stick with it for a period of time.

Group captives will often have a specific funding mechanism that is broken down into four layers:

Layer 1: The employer is responsible for the first $25,000 of any claim made by one of its employees.

Layer 2: All employers involved in the captive will share the costs of that claim if it exceeds $25,000, up to $250,000.

Layer 3: For claims that cost more than $250,000, the captive will secure reinsurance coverage to cover amounts above that level. This reinsurance is also called “stop-loss” insurance.

Layer 4: Another layer of protection known as “aggregate stop-loss” coverage protects each employer in the captive for the total claims of their employees, ranging from 115% to 125% of expected claim costs in a year.

Private exchanges

Typically, businesses using a private exchange will offer employees a credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a health plan. Employees can then access a variety of health plans through an online portal and can chose and enroll in plans that meet their needs.

Private exchanges are run by insurance carriers or consultancies, and plans on the exchange are regulated as group coverage. Employees shopping on these exchanges are not eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies.

Most employers currently using private exchanges are large; therefore, most private exchange plans are regulated as large-group coverage and are not part of the ACA’s single risk pool. However, to the extent that smaller employers participate in private exchanges, they are subject to the ACA’s small-group rating regulations and risk-pool requirements.

One of the main features of private exchanges is that they enable employees to comparison-shop among multiple health insurance plans.

Self-insuring

There are many different types of self-insurance, from minimum-premium or risk-sharing arrangements to a fully self-funded plan, in which the employer is responsible for all claims.

Employers can choose from:

Retrospective premium arrangements – The insurer will credit back a portion of the unused premium to the employer (typically as a credit for the following year). This is often used in a fully insured arrangement.

Minimum premium arrangements – The employer pays fixed costs (administration charges, stop-loss insurance and network access fees) and claim costs up to a maximum liability each month.

Partial self-funding -The employer takes on more liability and pays fixed costs (administration, network access, stop-loss premiums and some fees and taxes). It’s partial self-funding because the employer will purchase individual stop-loss insurance, which caps the employer’s liability on any given claim to a certain amount, say $50,000.

That way, the employer is self-insuring most of their employees’ medical needs, but is protected in case some of those claims become catastrophic.

Full self-funding – This is like partial self-funding except that there is no stop-loss insurance and the employer is responsible for all costs that are not shared by its employees.  This kind of arrangement is usually only available to large employers.

The takeaway

These alternative funding approaches are what is available now. But the industry is innovating to making health care and insurance more affordable for all involved.

"2020
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Trends Shaping Health Insurance and Health Care in 2020

As a new decade begins, the health insurance industry is on the cusp of making a leap towards improved, higher-tech management of health plan participants.

A recent paper by Capgemini, an insurance technology and consulting firm, predicts the following trends that will be taking shape in the health insurance industry and how they may affect businesses that are paying for their employees’ coverage.

1. Realigned relationships — Insurers are trying to shift risk between themselves and pharmaceutical companies in an effort to reduce drug outlays. The report says insurers are also working more closely with health care providers for early intervention in medical issues that may be facing participants. Addressing health issues early can reduce long-run treatment costs.

2. Fluid regulations — As we’ve seen, just because the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, the regulations governing health care and health insurance have continued streaming out of Washington. If the last two years are any guide, this will continue to be the case. Also, the constitutionality of the ACA is now being litigated once again after an appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

3. Increasing transparency — More stringent regulations, along with President Trump’s recent executive order to improve price and quality transparency, are forcing the health care industry and insurers to become more transparent in their pricing.

One of the biggest focuses is on the drug industry and the role of pharmacy benefit managers, the largest of which have been criticized for being opaque in their pricing, discounts and how they handle drug company rebates.

Also, insurers are increasingly providing detailed information regarding services covered under their health plans, claims processing and payments. Additionally, some insurers are helping enrollees to make more informed decisions before they use a health care service by providing digital tools to help them reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

4. Predictive analytics — Health insurers are using predictive analytics for risk profiling and early intervention for enrollees with health issues. Predictive analytics provide insurers with insightful assessments of potentially high-risk customers, in order to mitigate losses.

With advancements in technologies such as big data and connected devices, insurers now have access to vast amounts of customer data, which can be used to remind people it’s time for their check-ups, medications and other necessary medical services.

Insurers are using predictive analytics to identify and monitor high-risk individuals to intervene early and prevent further complications. This in turn can help reduce claims.