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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/   December 2009 Issue


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 applicants. 
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.

According 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.

There 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.

Thirty-two 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%.

According 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 distant 16%.

According 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 Midwest , $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 Midwest , 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.

In 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.