Hearsay & News Review
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Today is the day some of the
COBRA subsidies begin running out. In addition, the subsidy is scheduled to end
on December 31st. COBRA continuation
participants who became eligible on March 1, 2009, can no longer receive the 65
percent premium subsidy as of November 30, 2009. These participants are
responsible for paying their first full premium beginning with their December
2009 premium by the due date on their invoice. In addition, eligibility for the
65 percent subsidy ends December 31, 2009, for any new COBRA continuation
COBRA continuation participants are eligible for the subsidy for nine months
from the date of their eligibility. Therefore, if a participant became eligible
for COBRA continuation on December 31, 2009, that participant would receive the
65 percent subsidy through September 30, 2010.
to the web site of the law firm Miller & Chevalier, the IRS has already
begun audits of employers and insurers claiming the subsidy on their 2009 Forms
941. The IRS information document request asks for the identity of all
individuals represented on line 12b of Form 941.
is talk that the subsidy will be extended, but Congress has begun debating their
2,000 page health reform bill and may delay voting on the subsidy until they
have nationalized the health care system without lowering costs.
health insurance plans are leaving the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
(FEHBP). Ten states will no longer have an HMO choice and only two plans (both
HMOs) are joining the program this year. There are still 235 health plan choices
for FEHBP enrollees. Coming from the same government that says it will lower
national health care costs, the average contributions for the plans are
increasing by 8.8%.
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The number of doctors
communicating with patients online has increased from 16% five years ago to 31%.
to a Employee Benefits News survey of more than 300 HR and benefits
professionals, 80% and 82%, respectively of those polled rated individual
sessions with a benefits counselor and group meetings as the most effective
enrollment tools, followed by Web-based enrollments at 73%. Yet their primary
method of enrolling employees
was online (cited by 38%), with group meetings and call centers coming in at 24%
and 20%, respectively, and individual sessions with a benefits counselor at
to the Mercer 2009 annual survey, health plan costs rose an average of 5.5% in
2009 to $8,945 Per Employee Per Year for the over 3,000 employers surveyed. That
compares to a 6.3% increase in 2008. For employers with 500 plus employees,
costs in 2009 were $10,049 PEPY in the West, $9,403 in the
, $9,830 in the Northeast and $8,299 in the South. The percentage increases by
region were 10.8% in the West, 8.8% in the
, 4.6% in the Northeast and 1.7% in the South. Some of the differences are due
to adoption of CDH plans. Fifteen percent of firms from 10 to 499 employees
offered a CDH plan in 2009, up from 9% in 2008. Of those offering such a plan,
55% of employers make the plan their only option.
the same survey, the average deductible for PPO plans was up to $1,096, up from
$1,001 in 2008 and $686 in 2004. The percentage of employers offering health
coverage remained steady at 65% and employees contribute an average of $1,424 to
health flexible spending accounts.