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S&S Benefits.....Opinion, Hearsay & News Review

S&S Benefits Consulting, Inc.  219 Darien , Dundee , IL 60118   Phone: 847-428-5353, Fax:847-428-9876

Email : jseiler@ssbenefits.net                                               http://www.ssbenefits.net/   April 2009 Issue

A Hewitt survey says that 4% of 340 companies they surveyed say they are taking steps “today” that will enable them to discontinue offering health care benefits. Overall, the survey shows that most employers will not eliminate health benefits, but will increase other measures to reduce their cost. Sixty-five percent intend to shift more cost to workers and 49% will reduce the number of plans offered, while 33% will increase their focus on wellness and 40% expect to add a CDHP option.

If you wish to be added or removed from the distribution of this newsletter, please email jseiler@ssbenefits.net

The National Federation of Independent Business released a research report analyzing the impact of an employer health insurance mandate on small business. According to the research a mandate would create a net loss of more than 1.6 million jobs between 2009 and 2013. Small business will lose more than one million of those jobs. U.S. real gross domestic product will contract by $200 billion between 2009 and 2013 and small business would lose $113 billion of real output, which is 56% of all real output lost.

They are renaming Sears Tower in Chicago to become Willis Tower after the insurance broker consolidates its offices in the Chicago area. Something tells us the British based insurance broker is doing just fine even after being forced by the former NY Attorney General to give up its override compensation in the U.S.

Rumors are flying that Hartford Financial Services will be selling its money losing life insurance operations to Sun Life of Canada . The report in Bloomberg News also noted that Hartford had been in discussions with MetLife. Rumors of Humana selling its operations for health insurance to Aetna have died down. One Humana rep apparently attributed the recent Humana stock activity that looked like a sale to the change in Medicare reimbursements. However, that doesn’t seem to make sense since it seems that Medicare is going to reduce its reimbursements, thus shifting more cost onto the private sector.

A Fidelity Investments press release of a recent survey of companies of over 100 employees indicates that 55% of employees believe their employers pay less than $5,000 annually per person to provide health insurance vs. the reality of $5,000 to $15,000 per employee annually. Sixty-one percent of employees say they are paying more for benefits but get less than they did in 2007. One out of four employees indicated that they are working more to receive benefits than to receive income. Eight out of ten would rather have health benefits provided through their job than to receive a cash payment to manage their own health needs.

A NY Times article says the Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president would support taxing some employee health benefits. However, that position is contrary to the president’s campaign position when he criticized McCain for proposing to tax benefits. Another mixed/contrary signal is the tax deductibility of the subsidized COBRA benefits.

The MetLife 7th Annual Employee Benefits Trend Survey interviewed 1,500 benefits decision makers and found that fewer than 15% of employers expect to scale back their benefit programs. About 40% of small employers and 50% of large companies say that there is a strong connection between workplace morale and the quality of employee benefits.

A former BCBS-Il Exec VP received $15.3M in severance when she left for UHC after being passed by for the head job. Executive pay at Health Care Service Corporation is the highest for all BC companies nationally. The former CEO, Ray McCaskey, received $10.6M last year to run the $17.97B in revenue company. By contrast, the largest Blues plan is Wellpoint, which is also the number two U.S. insurer with $61.25B in revenue. Wellpoint’s CEO received $9.1M in compensation. So now you know where your network access fees and discounts go when you are insured with the Blues.

Employee Benefit News reports that 82% of U.S. workers have been personally affected by the recession; 91% say their companies have been affected; 54% say their company is not hiring while 45% report staffing cuts at their company.

A Consumer Reports poll says only 4% of patients discuss the cost of their prescription with their doctor. Forty-six percent say their doctor either never or only sometimes recommended a generic drug. Of those surveyed, 67% went to their doctor for a script due to an ad campaign (!) and said their doctor wrote the script.  80% of the 67% received free drug samples from their doctor, which is also a telling figure on advertising influence.