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Can an HSA be a retiree health plan? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ellen Breslow   
Friday, 22 January 2016 00:00
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Yes, with proper health care planning. Although health savings accounts are offered with high deductible health care plans and are often thought of as a current benefit, individuals may want to consider using their HSA balances as a future health care benefit.

What are the short and long term benefits of HSAs? For 2016, individuals can contribute $3, 350 to a health savings account, families $6,750.  Individuals age 55 and older can make an additional $1000 “catchup” contribution annually. In many cases, an employer will also make a contribution to the health savings account. All contributions are tax deductible and are tax free if used for an unreimbursed medical expense. Often, those employees who establish HSAs will use the funds during the course of the year to pay those expenses.

From a long term perspective, using HSAs to subsidize retiree medical expenses can be an attractive strategy for these funds. Unlike traditional flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts need not be depleted by the end of each year. And although contributions to HSAs aren’t permitted after age 65, funds which have been contributed prior to that point may be used during retirement for health care.

High deductible plans generally result in increased out-of-pocket expenses for employees. Including balances in HSAs towards future retiree health care expenses from a financial planning perspective, can ease what is frequently a primary concern among pre-retirees and retirees. Younger employees who take advantage of the tax benefits of HSAs have the opportunity to build a significant health care fund for retirement.

 

 

 

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016 15:14
 
The ACA 2016: News for Small Business Owners PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ellen Breslow   
Saturday, 19 December 2015 00:00
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The Affordable Care Act created a myriad of health insurance provisions for small business owners that took effect in 2015.  For 2016, however, a new law modifying the ACA can prevent some businesses with 51 to 100 employees from increases in health insurance premiums.

Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees or PACE as it is also known, was signed by President Obama in October 2015, to be effective in 2016. The legislation addresses a provision of the ACA seen as particularly burdensome to this group of small to midsized business owners.

States have defined small businesses as those with 50 for fewer employees. Obamacare would expand that definition to include businesses with up to 100 employees as of January 1, 2016. The new law gives states the ability to decide how to classify businesses with 51 to 100 employees, potentially saving premiums for small business employees.

 

Also, if the original small group provision had been implemented in 2016 as planned, small employers with between 51 and 100 employees would have been faced with the prospect of providing employees with health care coverage or face the steep tax penalties imposed on large employers for non compliance with the employer mandate. PACE can benefit these small businesses.

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 December 2015 08:27
 
Am I Watching My Health Carefully Enough? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ellen Breslow   
Tuesday, 06 October 2015 00:00
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It’s open enrollment season, and with it comes a menu of benefits from your employer. Now, in addition to what is often considered standard, is a wellness benefit. Wellness programs are becoming common in the workplace, however what constitutes participating in wellness may not be as ordinary as you think.

Over half of large employers that offer wellness programs include medical tests usually referred to as biometrics. In order to participate in biometric screening, employees will need to submit to blood tests at a doctor’s office, lab or workplace health fair. Is biometric screening customary in employer sponsored wellness programs? Do these blood tests really help improve health?

That is hard to quantify definitively, although this hasn’t slowed the growth in biometric screenings in employer wellness programs. These programs must be voluntary, however many employers link financial incentive to employee participation; a small percentage of employers actually tie rewards or penalties to specific health goals.

What can these screenings help employers do to monitor their employee’s health care? Asking employees about smoking, checking blood pressure and assessing body mass index aren’t particularly controversial, but biometric screenings may be. Among the tests commonly included in workplace programs is cholesterol screening. Medical groups differ on the best age to start and the frequency of testing for cholesterol. Biometric screening for cholesterol, among other components of the screening, may not make sense for younger employees. The method by which cholesterol is measured may impact the screening and lead to unnecessary medication. Many employers are now using a more comprehensive study including more risk factors to fine tune the cholesterol screening. Also included in some screenings are blood glucose levels and other factors which may indicate diabetes or a risk of developing the condition.

 

Even with differing recommendations on the benefits of biometric screenings, employees who participate in wellness programs should discuss the test results with their doctors in order to get the most out of these programs. Staying well helps employers and employees

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 10:52
 
How Narrow is Your Network? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ellen Breslow   
Sunday, 01 November 2015 00:00
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If you’re covered by an Obamacare health insurance exchange plan, be careful: its coverage may be narrower than you think. And that can add up to a significant increase in your out-of-pocket expenses for health care.

Let’s say, for example, that your doctor is concerned about your thyroid and thinks it makes sense for you to see an endocrinologist.  Small problem: you research your network information and discover that there are no endocrinologists listed. Could this really happen?

Sadly, the answer is yes and it happens more often that you may think. According to a recent study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined that as many as 14 percent of health plans sold on the federal government’s insurance exchange are lacking doctors in at least one common specialty from their networks. In fact, of the 135 “silver” health insurance plans in 34 states that the researchers reviewed, 19 of them lacked in-network specialists in some critical areas. The most common missing specialties were, psychiatry, rheumatology and endocrinology.

If you find that your plan is missing a specialist, this can result in unexpected out-of-pocket costs. Many plans don’t cover out-of-network visits at all. Some require that participants pay at least half of these expenses.

Nearly 12 million individuals have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange plans. With open enrollment upon us, and with it the opportunity to review and renew coverage, take the time to examine your network for specialists. Although the US Department of Health and Human Services regulates plans and is required to provide an adequate network of providers, this is not the case for all plans. Be sure you get what you pay for

 

 

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 November 2015 09:42
 
Will I Be Driving a Chevy in 2018? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ellen Breslow   
Saturday, 12 September 2015 00:00
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You’ve read about the “Cadillac” health tax slated to take effect in 2018.  The Affordable Care Act’s tax on high cost employer health insurance tax will impose a 40% non-deductible tax on benefits that exceed a government set threshold. The expected threshold for this tax is $10,200 in health benefits for individual coverage and $27,500 for a family for 2018 and will increase with inflation going forward. How do you calculate if this tax will apply to you? Is there anything to worry about now?

With open enrollment approaching, you’re about to find out. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, an estimated 26% of employers that offer health plans would begin to pay the 40% tax in 2018 on at least one of their plans if they don’t make changes. Many employers are beginning to amend their plans with an eye towards to limiting (if not avoiding) their potential excise tax liability.

There are other benefit plans that will also, when added to health insurance premiums, trigger the excise tax. Perhaps the most at risk benefit is the flexible spending account; a benefit which is offered by most large employers to fund qualified unreimbursed medical expenses. Both employee and employer contributions are limited to $2550, and although many employer don’t contribute to FSAs, this could push some employees over the threshold. Employers may limit contributions, or do away with FSAs altogether.

Other changes employers are considering? Fewer available benefits for working spouses. Some employers don’t offer health insurance at all where spouses are eligible to participate in their own employer sponsored health insurance. If health insurance is available to working spouses, there could be a surcharge assessed should working spouses enroll.

You may see smaller increases in premiums and deductibles for both individual and family coverage.
At face value, that might not seem like a reduction in an employee benefit. However, that smaller than average increase may entail narrower physician and hospital networks and other possible reduction in services.

There are a number of anti-Cadillac tax groups. Among them, anti-tax Republicans, insurers, labor groups and school districts. We’ll see what happens this fall.

 

 

 

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 September 2015 09:08
 
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