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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/  October 2006 Issue


Aetna polled 1,000 Americans ages 18-24 and instead of paying for health benefits, 70% would rather contribute a portion of their earnings to pay down credit card debt, add to savings or grow their 401(k) plans. 44% would rather pay their cell phone bill. Only 8% rank health benefits as their top priority when job hunting. 30% of the surveyed group was uninsured. Another Harris poll of 1,000 employees showed that 78% of workers say their motivation would increase if their employer offered more benefits. One in five workers is actively seeking a new job and most are keeping an eye out for something better. In the meantime, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 1.3 million to 46.6 million in 2005 and the number of people covered by employment based health insurance fell from 59.8% to 59.5%. Nine out of ten who tried to buy their own coverage failed either due to price or denial of coverage due to a current medical problem.

A little in-site into government provided health care: Decima Researchís survey of 3,070 Canadians revealed that more than one in three Canadian households tried and failed to get timely access to at least one health service in the last three months. 44% of those surveyed said their wait for care was too long. The Fraser Institute has conducted a survey that said in 2005, the total waiting time between referral from a GP and treatment for all specialties in all provinces averaged 17.7 weeks.

More than 1.17 million health savings accounts have been opened and the average balance is $1,260 according to a survey from Inside Consumer-Directed Care.

A survey by UnumProvident says that disability claims cause 55% of employee absences and FMLA causes another 25%. On average the employer cost is $260 for each day someone misses work.

A UBA survey found that average health premiums increased 8.6% for all plans last year. The 2006 Kaiser survey showed 7.7%. The UBA survey average premium was $331 for single and $817 for family. Kaiser showed the premium to be $354 single and $957 family. In the UBA survey, of those plans that required contributions, employees contributed 26.9% of premium for single ($88 per month) and 45.3% ($361 per month) for family coverage. Kaiser showed the percentage of employee contributions to be 16% ($52 per month) for single and 27% ($248 per month) for family coverage. The UBA survey found the median single PPO deductible for single coverage is now $500 (Kaiser said $473) and the median coinsurance level for in and out of network is 80%/60% (same for Kaiser). With the differences, there is a slightly different spin on the value of benchmarking. The Kaiser survey found that enrollment in consumer driven plans has remained static at 4% of covered workers.

The BLS reports that average labor costs in June 2006 reached $26.86 per hour with $18.80 (70%) for wages and salaries and $8.06 (30%) for benefits. Legally required benefits (workerís compensation, unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare) averaged 8.1% ($2.17 per hour) and health, life and disability benefits averaged $2.19.

Since Wal-Mart and Target are offering generic drugs for only $4 per script retail, there could be a significant effect on PBM mail order programs. In the meantime, employers and employees can enjoy the savings at the expense of the PBMs since there is little financial reason to purchase the generic drugs through mail order if they are available at $4 per script retail.

The projected health premium increase for federal employee benefits plans is 1.8% for 2007, after a 6.4% rise in 2006. The government (thatís you) pays approximately 71% of employee health benefit premiums. The government offers 284 health care plans.

UHC continues to grow by now offering two TPAs for their self-funded plans. UMR ( Cincinnati based United Medical Resources) is their latest affiliate, joining Midwest Security Administrators. UHC just announced the purchase of Arnett Health Plans of Lafayette, IN, which is a local physician owned HMO and TPA.

According to a recent study released by Harvard and the University of Michigan , life expectancy has increased seven years since 1960 at a healthcare cost of $19,900 per year of life. For those over age sixty five, life expectancy has increased 3.5 years since 1960 at a cost of $84,700 per year of life. One wonders if the priorities of 18-24 year olds would change if they knew the cost of healthcare services? Probably not. Youth is a feeling of invincibility that we are allowed before reality hits.