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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 click: mailto:jseiler@ssbenefits.net                                              http://www.ssbenefits.net/ January 2006 Issue

John Deere & Co. has announced the sale of its managed care unit to United Healthcare for about $500 million in a stock purchase transaction that is expected to be completed by April 1st.

A survey by Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that 41% of employers incorporate health and productivity initiatives into their overall health care planning and another third of those surveyed planned to do the same in 2006. Most of the respondents also have EAP programs and 70% have health promotion programs or health risk appraisals and work and family programs.

Marketing consulting firm Yankelovich performed a recent survey on consumer attitudes towards wellness and disease prevention. They classified one-third of respondents as “disinterested” and 39% have a “take charge” attitude. Slightly less than that are ‘middle of the road,” which means they are aware of health risks, but take action only when faced with a crisis. Nine percent have the ‘best of intentions,” but don’t have the discipline or willpower to follow through on health issues. Interestingly, those in the “disinterested” category will not respond to the standard obesity message regarding health issues, but are more prone to respond to messages that address obesity in terms of personal appearance.

According to HSA Bank’s statistics, about 92% of accountholders are saving at least a portion of the contributed funds in their HSAs, with more than 63% saving at least half of the funds contributed. They reported their average balance in HSA accounts to be over $1,500.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducted a survey that found those covered by high deductible plans are more likely than those with comprehensive insurance to avoid or delay needed care. However, the survey also found that those with high deductible plans also exhibit more cost-conscious behavior. The question seems to be whether cost –consciousness comes at the expense of good decision-making in regard to treatment.

Principal Financial says that 90% of respondents to their survey still rate health insurance as highest in importance of the benefits they receive. The second ranked benefit was defined benefit plans at 71%.  In regard to retirement savings, 77% plan to make no change in their investment mix, while 23% planned changes. Of the 23%, fifteen percent were switching to a more stable mix and and 9% were switching to a more volatile mix. Meanwhile, a new EBRI study found that in 2004, retirement spending narrowly exceeded health care as the leading item in total benefit spending-47.1% for retirement, 43.2% for health care and 9.7% for all other benefits. In terms of total compensation, wages and salaries accounted for 81% of total compensation costs.

United Healthcare of Georgia will pay at least $2.3M to settle claims that the company failed to pay fast enough to doctors and hospitals. Georgia law requires insurers to pay medical providers’ claims within 15 business days or explain why they can’t be paid. Ironically, UHC was recently awarded the business as the claim payer for the state of Georgia benefit plan.

The UHC deal to acquire PacifiCare has won U.S. antitrust approval of the $8 billion deal after the companies agreed to divest parts of PacifiCare’s business in Boulder , CO and Tucson , AZ.

A survey of CFO’s showed that less than 1/3 of them said they would be giving higher salary increases in 2006 than in 2005.

Medicare Part D has created more than enough confusion among seniors and those trying to help them with their selections. Imagine the reaction when seniors calling the 800 number provided by Humana in their literature for confirming enrollment, were instead connected to “Intimate Encounters” phone sex line. Humana found out about the error through a reporter. Business Insurance reported that none of the 20,000 beneficiaries who received the wrong number in their letter complained. Apparently the conversations were more interesting than those calling had expected.


Have a Great 2006!

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