Results of a new survey by consulting firm Mercer say no. According to survey reponses, only 6% of employers with more than 500 workers, and just 3% of very large employers with 10,000 or more workers, say they are likely to terminate their health plans and send employees to the state insurance exchanges to seek individual insurance plans.

Click on the link above for more information about how small employers will react, and what all employers expect the cost impact of healthcare reform to be. The full survey will be released later this month.

A very interesting chart just posted on the Kaiser Health News site shows that the percent of large employers offering retiree health benefits is at its lowest point ever in 2010. You can also view a whole lot of other interesting data from this page, if you’re interested in knowing more about the state of retiree health care benefits.

Benefits and human resources consulting firm The Segal Company has just published its yearly survey of health care plan cost trends. Based on responses from 60 insurance carriers, the report offers a wealth of helpful data on the outlook for plan costs in 2011 and compares 2009 actual results to forecasts. The 6-page report is chock full of data on medical plans for active employees, pre-65 retirees, and Medicare-eligible retirees, prescription drug carve-outs, and dental and vision plans.

The report projects cost trends for Medicare Advantage PFFS and PPO plans with prescription drug coverage to increase in 2011 by 7%, vs. an expected 9.5% for 2010. MA HMO plans with RX are projected to grow by 7.4%, vs. a projected 8.2% in 2010. Interestingly, forecasts in the past have erred on the high side, as “…actual trend rates in 2009 for MA HMOs…were significantly lower than forecasted…” and “Actual prescription drug trend rates continue to be lower than forecasted.”

One of the contributors to the always worthy and interesting The Health Care Blog, Mike Turpin, has some very interesting and challenging advice for HR benefits managers as they consider how to respond to the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act. For example, here’s a short excerpt:

Don’t be intimidated by self-insurance – Many employers underestimate the advantages of self-insurance and overestimate its complexity and risk.  But, in a post reform world, firms with more than 200 employees should give serious consideration to partial or total self-funding.  Aside from the total transparency of commissions, fees, administrative expenses and pooling charges, employers own their own data. The sooner employers get comfortable with self-insurance as a risk financing strategy, the sooner HR professionals can construct loss control programs that can mitigate claims costs.”

Mr. Turpin is currently the Executive Vice President for Benefits for the New York based broker, USI insurance Services and was formerly northeast regional CEO for United Healthcare and Oxford Health.  Great food for thought, and recommended reading.

The Census Bureau has just released a report titled Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009 and the trend in insurance coverage shows that health care reform is more needed than ever.  While median household income didn’t change between 2008 and 2009, both the number of households considered poor, and the number of uninsured individuals, showed significant increases. One very interesting statistic: the number of people covered by Medicare in 2009 was not statistically different than the number covered by Medicare in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

The CDC just came out with a new estimate of uninsured Americans,
and the number is still growing. Based on the 2009 survey, the CDC
estimates that 46.3 million people – just over 15 percent of the
population – lacked health insurance last year. That’s up from 43.8
million in 2008. Nearly 60 million had been uninsured during some
part of the year, and nearly 33 million had been uninsured for more
than a year at the time of their interview. Kaiser Health News and
NPR provide a good summary of the findings.  Complete information
can be found in the Health Insurance and Expenditures chapter of
the CDC report entitled Health, United States, 2009, which is the source
of the graph to the right on this post.

The executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, in an article published in the American Journal of Medicine, makes a strong case for the advantages of health insurance exchanges. One of the important advantages he notes is something we’ve been saying too: the exchange model provides greater choice and that’s good for insurance consumers:

“There is then another step in an exchange’s sales process: approved plans compete with one another for individual customers. This “retail sale” differs from the process for most group insurance, whereby an employer picks one health plan, partly on the basis of ease of administration, and the employee has one choice — take it or leave it. Offering just one plan averts the need for annual enrollment fairs, dealing retroactively with employees’ dissatisfaction over their choice of plan, the administrative hassles of working with multiple carriers, and the need to worry about and police risk selection. The one-plan model favors health plans with the largest provider networks. So that no employee (or spouse or child) has to switch doctors, employers prefer to offer a health plan that permits access to virtually every doctor and hospital, rather than health plans offering limited networks of physicians integrated into prepaid systems of care. Therein lies the root of frustration on the part of many managed-competition enthusiasts, who yearn for a radical restructuring of health plans into competing delivery systems.”

To read the full article, click here.