Category Archives: Employers

Now It’s Personal

Last week, some of my LinkedIn connections, as well as several other connections, learned of my recent hospitalization. The reason for this was not mentioned at the time, but I will tell you now.

Not having health insurance through an employer, and being denied renewal of a local county health care program, led to my going from Stage 4 to End Stage Kidney Disease.

The hospitalization last week was to place a catheter in me for peritoneal dialysis, and to repair an umbilical hernia.

My hospitalization was brought to light quite unexpectedly by my friend, Maria Todd. Maria’s sending best wishes for my speedy recovery and quick discharge from the hospital was much appreciated, and the warm words by others in response, and the thirty plus “likes” made me feel that people cared. For that. I am grateful.

But the events of the past month have brought home to me one very important point, given the current activity surrounding the so-called “repeal and replace” of the ACA, and the two Congressional bills that many consider doing more harm than good.

This nation needs Medicare for All.

There, I said it.

I know in the past, I have advocated single payer for others, but my illness has shown that anyone who loses health care for any amount of time, once they have reached adulthood, cannot go without health insurance.

This is what happens when men and women are removed prematurely from the workforce, for whatever reason, employer decides you are no longer wanted, economic downturn or just to eliminate positions that affect the bottom-line of the company, and are generally targeted to individuals in their 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s so that the company can save on health care costs for those employees, and so that younger workers can be hired to replace them.

This is not something new, and not related to automation and artificial intelligence disrupting whole industries, which is inevitable.

My initial view on single-payer was that if employers were no longer responsible for the health insurance of their employees, and they were guaranteed full coverage by the government, some of the job losses of the past decades would not have happened, and many talented men and women out of the workforce would be employed until their retirement.

If you don’t believe me, go to LinkedIn and read the many posts from such individuals who are still unemployed. One fellow in Texas even got turned down from jobs at fast food restaurants.

So, now it is personal for me.

I also know that many of you make your living from the health care system we currently have, and that some of you have expounded on why you think a single payer system is unrealistic.

I get it that your financial outlook depends on working in a broken, free-market system because it pays your salary, but healthcare was not supposed to be a business, nor was it supposed to marketed like any other commodity.

If you don’t believe me, read what Pope Francis said: “health is not a consumer good, but rather a universal right, and therefore access to health care services cannot be a privilege.”

But try telling that to Messrs. McConnell, Ryan, Paul, et al in Congress, and the current POTUS, all of whom want to eliminate medical coverage for millions of Americans they received under the ACA, cut back Medicare and Medicaid, and destroy Social Security.

Now that I will be receiving dialysis, and quite likely will qualify for disability, the prospect of not having those resources is very personal to me, and could literally mean my life.

Look in the mirror, then look at your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbors, friends, etc. What do you think would happen to them if these programs were eliminated? Would you have enough money to care for them? Would you have money to pay for private insurance?

I lost my mother last month to dementia. She died on her 85th birthday in a nursing home some miles from my home (the home she and my father bought), but if the Republicans in Congress had gotten their way, and she had lived longer, I feared she would have been forced out of that nursing home, with no place to go, and would have been an even bigger burden to me.

So, I really don’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Socialist, Liberal, or Conservative, we all need health care at some point in our lives.

One of the friends I met here in Florida back in the 90’s died last July of a stroke. He was 73. He worked out, never smoked, had a good life, three kids, and like many of you, worked in Risk Management, as well as Human Resources, the legal profession, and served in Vietnam. But despite all that, he died prematurely, and went into involuntary retirement because he was in his 60’s. Luckily, his wife worked. But you get the picture.

We must all do our part to see that every American can get health care. Not just access to care, which is a Republican euphemism for being able to afford it, and if you can’t, too bad. But actual health insurance. Medicare for All.

Trumpcare and Medical Travel: What Will Happen

The following infographic shows what will happen to the US healthcare system when the Senate rams the ACHA down our throats, as many are indicating will occur because McConnell and a group of GOP Men are hiding behind closed doors and won’t even tell their own party what’s in the bill they are writing.

What this will mean for medical travel is not hard to figure out. For some, it will offer an opportunity to seek lower cost medical care due to premiums that will increase and costs rising as well.

This will be especially true for self-insured employers who will want to save money by offering this to their employees.

Here is the infographic:

fa97feb3-c0f5-4fdb-9c79-6cfe82add29e-original

An Old Topic Returns

Back when I began this blog, I discussed in several posts, the difference between employee and employer choice of physician in each state for workers’ comp.

As reported last week, and elaborated here by Peter Rousmaniere, there is some question as to whether the choice of doctor affects costs.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide what is true.

ARAWC Strikes Again: Opt-out Rolls On

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone, Godfather, Part III

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/Mamzeltt/famous-movie-quotes/

When Michael confronts Connie and Neri in the kitchen of his townhouse, he warns them to never give an order to kill someone again (in this case, it was Joey Zaza), and goes on to state that when he thought he had left the mob lifestyle, they pull him back.

Thus, is the case with opt-out, as I discussed in my last post on the subject.

Kristen Beckman, in today’s Business Insurance, reminds us that opt-out, like the Mob, is pulling us back into the conversation.

As I reported last time, a bill in Arkansas, Senate Bill 653, pending in that state’s legislature’s Insurance & Commerce Committee since the beginning of March, proposes an alternative to the state system.

Ms. Beckman quotes Fred C. Bosse (not Fred C. Dobbs), the southwest region vice president of the American Insurance Association (AIA), who said that the bill is an attempt to keep the workers comp opt-out conversation going.

Mr. Bosse said that the AIA takes these bills seriously (good for them) and engages legislators to dissuade progress of such legislation the AIA believes could create an unequal benefit system for employees. (They haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid either)

Arkansas’ bill is the only legislation currently under consideration, but a state Rep in Florida, Cord Byrd (there’s a name for you), a Republican (it figures) from Jacksonville Beach, promoted legislation last year, but never filed it.

South Carolina and Tennessee, where bills were previously introduced within the past two years has gone nowhere.

And once again ARAWC rears its ugly head. For those of you unfamiliar with ARAWC, or the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation, it is a right-wing lobbying and legislation writing group based in Reston, Virginia. (see several other posts on ARAWC on this blog)

A statement ARAWC sent to BI said that these bills are beginning to pop up organically to model benefits that companies have seen from Texas’ non-subscription model. (Organically? That’s like saying mushroom clouds organically popped up over Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

Here’s a laugh for you, straight from the ARAWC statement:

Outcomes and benefits for injured workers have improved, employers are more competitive when costs are contained and taxpayers are well served by market-driven solutions,” They further said, “We recognize that each state is different and that the discussions at the state level will involve varied opinions.”

Of course, we cannot really know if injured workers are benefitting, or just being denied their rights, and it seems that opt-out is only to help employers and taxpayers get out of their responsibility to those who sustain serious injuries while employed.

In another post, the notion that Texas’ system could serve as a model for other states was outlined in a report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (don’t you just love the names of these reactionary groups?)

Bill Minick, president of PartnerSource, praised the report, according to Ms. Beckman, and said that competition has driven down insurance premium rates and improved benefits for Texas workers. (That’s what he says, but is any of it true, I wonder? I doubt it.)

ARAWC has listed a laundry list of benefits they say responsible alternative comp laws could provide:

  • Better wage replacement
  • Reduced overall employer costs
  • Faster return to work
  • Fewer claims disputes (yeah, because they would be denied)
  • Faster claim payouts
  • Faster closure (well, when you deny claims, they can be closed faster, duh!)

It is good to know that the AIA is critical of the report, and that in their opinion, it is unworkable to allow employers to adopt a separate, but unequal system of employee benefits.

And as we have seen with the defeat of the AHCA, leaving a government-sponsored program up to market-driven forces is a recipe for disaster that should not be repeated in workers’ comp, no matter what flavor the Kool-Aid comes in.

Opt-out: The Thing That Will Not Die

An article in today’s Business Insurance magazine, Texas comp opt-out model could spread to other states: Report, said that the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free enterprise research and advocacy group, released a report that analyzed the Texas nonsubscription system, and said the other states may try to emulate the model.

Folks, we’ve been down this road before as I wrote last August.

The report is called, “The Lone Star Model for Helping Injured Workers,” [really?] says that the competition between the state’s system and the nonsubscription system has led to improved claims handling, cost control and better return-to-work rates.

I have no way of knowing if this is true, but if it is, then how come no other state is following suit? Could it be that it doesn’t do what they say it does?

The report also says that 78% of Texas employers, who represent 82% of the state’s private-sector employers are covered by the state system, and five percent of employees are not covered by workers’ comp or an alternative system. This was reported in my earlier posts.

In previous posts, I have said that there are unanswered questions as to how well injured workers would be treated, and I have also said that opt-out is just a way to tear down the entire workers’ compensation system nationwide.

Even the late David De Paolo wrote that the comp industry should not drink the kool-aid on opt-out.

And given the fact that the Oklahoma law was declared unconstitutional, and the other states that were considering it have pulled the legislation back, means that opt-out is not what its defenders claim it to be.

ARAWC, the organization behind much of the legislation has not been successful in getting other states to follow Texas’ lead.

Why is that?

It is because no one wants to go back to the 19th century where workers were without any protections and had to go to court to get any sort of benefits should they be injured on the job.

The Oklahoma law proves that it just does not have the welfare of the injured worker in its best interest, and that opt-out is only a means by which an employer can get away without any liability or responsibility for taking care of the worker.

Taking back the country before the Socialists took over is a powerful, right-wing talking point and meme, but no way to move a technologically advanced country forward into the 21st century.

 

ACA Repeal Opens Up Medical Travel: A Second Look

Note: Here is Laura’s second article on repeal of the ACA and its’ impact on medical travel. She breaks the article down by areas of the healthcare industry that will be affected by repeal and that might benefit from medical travel.

Repeal of Affordable Care Act Impacts International Medical Travel
by Laura Carabello

wphealthcarenews.com- The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been met with considerable market uncertainty. As the transition gets underway, many Americans will be scrambling to access affordable, quality care.

Fortunately, the international medical travel industry -“Travel for Treatment” – may finally gain the attention it deserves from the American public and U.S. employers. Experts predict that the number of Americans traveling abroad for medical care or episodes of treatment is expected to increase 25 percent annually over the next decade.

Medical travelers are likely to come from every market sector: the growing ranks of uninsured individuals, self-insured employers facing higher healthcare expenditures, disenfranchised Medicaid beneficiaries, as well as Medicare enrollees with high out-of-pocket expenditures and the loss of coverage for preventive care.

Individual Consumers
Once “minimum essential healthcare coverage” is no longer mandated, the burden of payment will transfer onto healthcare providers and systems that will be forced to continue cost shifting onto the backs of paying customers.

Fewer insurance companies will be willing to underwrite coverage in the exchanges. In fact, many will leave the individual marketplaces altogether because of the potential loss of federal subsidies for both beneficiaries and insurance companies themselves.

Burdened by hefty cost-shifting, more Americans will be forced to pay out of their own pockets for surgeries or treatments in the U.S. Those who can afford a plane ticket will find it increasingly attractive to travel outside the country for quality, affordable options, such as joint replacement, cardio-thoracic surgery, oncology, bariatrics, and a host of other medical procedures, including treatment for Hepatitis C.

Low-Income (Medicaid) and Seniors (Medicare)
For Medicaid beneficiaries who remained optimistic that their home state would offer expanded coverage, their prospects look dim. The unraveling of the ACA will leave millions of the poorest and sickest Americans without insurance. Many states may either abandon Medicaid expansion or be forced to significantly redesign their programs to ensure that individuals below 400 percent of the federal poverty level can receive affordable healthcare coverage and services.

While these low-income families may not have cash reserves to fund expensive care in the U.S., they might be able to gather the resources to access needed surgeries overseas – and pay less than half of the US rates. Those who have emigrated from Latin American countries, in particular, will take advantage of opportunities to travel to their homelands to gain access to care that is substantially less expensive, and in a familiar setting.

The 57 million senior citizens and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare could also benefit from accessing international medical travel. Under a full repeal of the ACA, seniors face higher deductibles and co-payments for their Part A, which covers hospital stays, and higher premiums and deductibles for Part B, which pays for doctor visits and other services. Medicare enrollees may also lose some of their free preventative benefits, such as screenings for breast and colorectal cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The opportunity to access quality care at lower costs – plus prescription drugs that are sold at far lower price points outside the US – present attractive options.

Employers
Healthcare will continue to be driven through employers, and cost pressures will push high-deductible plans, risk-based contracting and consumerism. In the United States today, even a negotiated, discounted rate for a total knee replacement at a local hospital may well exceed $45,000, $60,000, or more. The bottom line for self-insured employers – the coverage model that now dominates the marketplace: even after factoring in the cost of travel and accommodations for the patient and the companion, as well as waiving deductibles and co-pays as incentives to program adoption, the savings on surgical procedures such as joint replacement are significant.

Employers will also be more likely to send workers to emerging COEs outside the country in light of the many partnerships that are underway between US providers and foreign hospitals. These collaborative programs are bringing American ingenuity, sophisticated technology and advanced levels of care to institutions throughout the world.

Quality and safety standards at many institutions are now equal to or exceed US benchmarks. Many foreign hospitals are accredited by Joint Commission International, an extension of the US-based Joint Commission. Select hospitals outside the country adhere to US clinical protocols.

In fact, one organization that serves self-insured employers – North American Specialty Hospital in Cancun – even offers U.S. surgeons with US malpractice insurance who perform pre- and post-operative care in the US and then travel to Cancun for surgery. This ensures continuous engagement and continuity of care.

Hospitals
The ACA has contributed to hospitals experiencing higher volumes of insured patients, but those volumes would drop with the law’s repeal. It could also cause fewer people to keep prescription coverage, which would be modestly negative for the pharmaceutical industry.

Experts believe the majority of primary care physicians are open to changes in the law but overwhelmingly oppose full repeal, according to a survey published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Insurance coverage for the 20 million people who obtained insurance from the exchanges sparked growth in patient numbers for hospitals, which offset lower payments. Without this, hospitals can expect deepening economic problems. This could lead to higher prices, and greater impetus among individuals to seek medical care outside of the U.S.

Key Destinations for International Medical Travel
With the growing ranks of uninsured, medical travel options are likely to emerge as a critical solution to healthcare cost woes. Hospitals and providers in nearby locations such as Latin America – known as the LAC Region – are likely to become destinations of choice: less expensive travel expenses, reduced language barriers, and cultural familiarity. Individuals and employers will require guidance in terms of choosing the right providers and determining costs to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

To view the original article, click here.

Fam Tours for Self-Insured Employers

The subject of medical travel for self-insured employers is one that this blog has rarely discussed from the point of view of the medical travel facility.

Previous posts here have discussed a possible scenario for medical travel by self-insured employers under workers’ comp, the experience of one company that did so for its employees under their group health plan, and why self-insured employers are failing to adopt medical travel, as well as other posts that briefly mentioned self-insured employers.

Yet, at no time has this reviewer, in the position of content writer, ever discussed how the medical travel facilities can market their services to potential self-insured customers.

A new book by Maria Todd, her sixteenth in fact, does exactly that. Organizing Medical Tourism Site Inspections for Self-Insured Employers is a well-written manual for medical travel facilities seeking to highlight the services they offer by hosting site inspections, or more colloquially known as “fam tours,” or familiarizing tours.

Note: This writer had participated in only one fam tour to medical facilities when I spoke at a medical tourism conference in Mexico in 2014.

Knowing the Customer

Dr. Todd’s book focuses on the ways medical travel facilities can know their customers by knowing which self-insured employers are more likely to develop a medical travel program for their plan beneficiaries, and the criteria the Plan Administrators will look for to engage their services and the conditions under which such travel is possible.

One example given is if flying time to a medical tourism destination is less than three hours by plane. For American workers, who have US passports, longer distances would eliminate travel to parts of Asia, the Middle East, parts of South America, and Russia. Such locations would be possible if the employees were working there or nearby, and they were the closest facilities available.

She also discusses what will attract multinational employers who have workers around the world to select facilities that can handle industrial accidents, as well as general health and rehabilitative services. Some employers may be self-insured for their domestic employees, but purchase an insurance cover called an International Private Medical Insurance, or “IPMI.”

Selling Solutions

To educate hospital executives and managers on how to sell solutions to Plan Administrators, Dr. Todd includes a chapter on a topic she says executives and managers often do not consider important.

The chapter focuses on what not to say or do when conducting a site inspection. You, as the seller might consider certain areas of your facility important to highlight, or is one that you take pride in, but may not be something your guests are particularly interested in.

One such area is Accreditation. Not knowing abbreviations for accrediting organizations such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), or what the big deal is about accreditation, is something the executives and managers need to be aware of beforehand and to be prepared to explain why it is important.

Proper accreditation will go a long way to ease their minds over deciding to use that facility, and being presented with an unfamiliar or disreputable accreditor, or one whose certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on, is something to be aware of also.

Another area of concern when hosting a site inspection is scientific presentations. It is quite possible that some of your guests may be physicians and nurses who will benefit from seeing such presentations, but for those Plan Administrators who are not medical personnel, such tours maybe considerably boring, if not completely too technical for them to comprehend.

Technology Tours

A similar mistake made is taking business-focused guests to see the technology the facility has installed and uses. Dr. Todd recommends they create a spreadsheet of the expensive equipment they have and write a short blurb about each.

Her main point is this: Plan Administrators are seeking three things: transparency, good value, and superb, culturally-sensitive customer service.

Other areas to avoid on Fam tours

The Emergency Department, laboratory, radiology and imaging department, cardiac catheterization lab, and the PET/CT, and PACU’s are a waste of time, per Dr. Todd, and may even disturb the patient’s privacy and recovery.

Final five chapters

The final five chapters deal with developing relationships, the contracting and provider network criteria (where to get preliminary data, contract terms and payment agreements, and avoiding payment hassles with the right language), the basics of ERISA (ERISA fiduciary responsibilities, self-insurance plan sponsorship not limited to the US, and government employers pay for healthcare services outside of their countries), how to prepare for site inspections, and lastly, rate proposals.

Closing

Dr. Todd’s book is a must for any self-insured employer considering a medical travel program for their beneficiaries. For those employers who self-insure for general health care, this book provides them with the knowledge they need to have to explore doing so. For those self-insured employers who self-insure for workers’ comp, this too is an important book.

The likelihood that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed or replaced, with something worse, or with nothing at all, grows stronger every day now. Once that happens, premiums will rise, and alternatives such as medical travel will seem much more plausible and cost-effective.

While this book was written from the perspective of the seller of healthcare services, purchasers of such services, either domestically or internationally, can benefit from reading it. Not knowing what to look for will only cost you time and money and be harmful to the health of your plan and your employees. I highly recommend this book to you.