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

Why be like everyone else?

Happy New Year!

We hope you had a safe and wonderful holiday!

For those of you who still receive this newsletter via fax, you MISSED the special December Edition which highlighted a report on PEO’s and Employee Leasing. As these organizations gain popularity, you may want to learn more. You can by receiving this newsletter via e-mail instead of fax. Just email us at jseiler@ssbenefits.net and tell us who you are (not always apparent from the email return address) and we’ll send the newsletter via email…including Special Editions that we Do Not distribute via fax.

If you wish to be removed from the newsletter list, please also email us or return the fax with "REMOVE" written across it with your name.

http://www.state.il.us/INS/legislative/Leg2001/LEG_PA92-0185.pdf Go there to view the new mental health parity law in effect for Illinois insured groups of over 50 employees for renewals effective on or after January 1,2002. Basically, a mental illness defined as serious under that statute must be covered the same as any other illness (with the exception of a 45 day per year inpatient and 35 visit per year limit on outpatient treatment). The ridiculous thing about this law is that it will sunset in 2005 and in the meantime, the Illinois Department of Insurance is supposed to evaluate the effectiveness of the law (something for which they are not equipped or funded to do.) For more idiocy, contact your local state representatives. If the link does not work, let us know and we will email you the Adobe file containing the bill (version 4.05).

The annual Mercer survey of 2800 employer’s health benefit costs is out along with surveys from Towers and Andersen on the same subject. Total health benefit costs for active employees rose 11.2% in 2001 to $4,924. Costs for employers of 500 lives and up averaged $5,162 while 10-499 life employers costs were $4,649. PPO costs nationally average $4,544 with 46% of all covered employees in PPOs. Only 7% are left in indemnity plans. Indemnity increases averaged less than all other plans at 7.6%.

Towers reports that the average employee pays 17% of the total cost of single coverage, 20% of family coverage, or 19% overall for active employees. The average of total premiums for single coverage was $228 per month, ee+1 was $466 and family was $661 per month. After Sept. 11th, areas most likely to be a focus of corporate cost containment measures include health and welfare plan design (57% of respondents), recruiting and staffing (55%) and training and development (44%). Merit increases are expected to average 3.3%.

Andersen reports that the most prevalent health plan design is still $250 deductible in-network, but $500 out of network. Coinsurance most prevalent is 90% in–network and 70% out of network. 84% of all companies surveyed offered a drug card and 72% of all PPO plans were self-funded. Most respondents to the Andersen survey were employers with 500 to 2,500 employees.

Aetna has announced it will be cutting 6,000 jobs from the 37,000 employees on the payroll. Aetna feels these employees will not be needed as they cut their commercial HMO offerings and Medicare HMO offerings and realign themselves to sell through brokers for employers of 50 to 3000 workers.

A quick survey from benefitnews.com shows that 68% of employers conduct enrollment through face to face meetings. 16% use the web, 6% the phone and 9% use other methods.

Fiserv out of Milwaukee (Brookfield, WI) has purchased the troubled Benesight operation and Harrington Benefit Services by acquiring Minneapolis based Trewit, Inc. Benesight is the remake of the old Travelers Plan TPAs (The TPA) that was bought by United Healthcare and then spun off. Harrington has been sold so many times we can’t recall the last owners (possibly Health Plan Management). Fiserv had previously purchased Benefit Planners, a TPA out of Texas.

The IRS has released the new COLAs for benefits. The monthly commuter limit for public transit benefits is $100 and for parking subsidies it is $185. MSA minimum deductibles are now $1,650($2,500 maximum) for single and $3,300 minimum for family ($4,950 maximum). Long- term care deductibles have also increased.