Tag Archives: NYC employee benefits

Poll finds growing GOP support for paid family leave

Paid family leave is well known to be a popular idea among New York City Democrats, but an increasing number of Republicans here also support it, with a significant number “strongly” in favor of such a policy, according to a new poll.

Democrats saying they “strongly support” paid family leave increased to 81% in 2015 from 74% in 2014, according to the Community Service Society‘s annual “Unheard Third” survey. But the gain was far greater among Republicans, with the portion who “strongly” support it rising to 58% in 2015 from 45% in 2014. Folding in less enthusiastic backers, support among Republicans went from 65% to 74%.

To be sure, the number of Republicans surveyed this year was minuscule, just 229, indicative of New York’s small number of GOP members, so random fluctuation could account for some of the increase. But the rise in support among non-GOP voters shows it probably was not a fluke. The survey of 1,705 city residents was conducted July 19 through Aug. 17 and has a margin of error of +/-2.75%. The policy would require employers to allow their workers time off to care for a newborn or sick loved one.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

NY health plans seek average 13.5% hike for 2016

Get ready to pay more for health care next year.

The battle over setting next year’s health insurance premiums in New York is underway after proposals seeking double-digit rate increases on average were submitted to state regulators.

Proposed rate adjustments vary widely, with an average increase of about 13.5 percent. While some health plans seek up to 30 percent rate increases, others have presented slight decreases, state records filed this month show.

Health insurance premium rates in 2016 for individual and small group plans — as opposed to larger employer-sponsored coverage plans — will ultimately be set by the state Department of Financial Services under the prior-approval process, which essentially gives the agency authority to approve or reduce the rates requested.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Poll Marks a Love/Hate View of the Affordable Care Act

Public support for Obamacare tied its all-time low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll – even as most Americans say the Supreme Court should not block federal subsidies at the heart of the health care law.

With the high court set to rule on the latest challenge to the ACA, the poll reflects the public’s split views of the law – criticism of its insurance mandate, yet support for extended coverage.

Overall, just 39 percent support the law, down 10 percentage points in a little more than a year to match the record low from three years ago as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate. A majority, 54 percent, opposes Obamacare, a scant 3 points shy of the high in late 2013 after the botched rollout of healthcare.gov.

In spite of majority opposition overall, however, 55 percent think the Supreme Court should not block federal subsidies that help some low and moderate income Americans pay for their health insurance. Many fewer, 38 percent, would like to see the Court strike down those subsidies.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

 

 

 

Employers Urge Repeal of Small Group Expansion

The Affordable Care Act’s mandated expansion of the definition of the small group market would limit employers’ health plan options, according to employer groups who are urging the repeal of the mandate before it takes effect in 2016.

Expanding the small group market to include groups up to 100 would not only reduce choice for this segment of the market, it means some employers would be unable to keep the insurer they currently have, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Association of Health Underwriters. The industry groups and more than a dozen other employer organizations are applauding efforts to repeal the ACA mandate through legislation called the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE).

The expansion is intended to make insurance more affordable for the smallest employers by expanding the risk pool to include larger companies. It also aims to increase the number of participants in the ACA’s Small Business Health Options Program, also known as the SHOP exchanges.

The PACE bill would maintain the current definition of a small group market as 1-50 employees and give states the flexibility to expand the group size if they feel the market conditions in their state necessitate the change.

“It is in the best interest of employers and their employees that states determine the definition of their small group market,” the groups argue in a recent letter to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“Repealing the ACA-mandated expansion and returning to the historical role of state determination would allow flexibility and ensure a broad array of coverage options and mitigate dramatic premium increases,” they add.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Amenities, Perks, and Bonuses Trump Salary Raises

Yacht-size bonuses for Wall Street big shots and employee-of-the-month plaques for supermarket standouts are nothing new, but companies’ continued efforts to keep costs down have pushed employers to increasingly turn to one-off bonuses and nonmonetary rewards at the expense of annual pay raises.

“There is a quiet revolution in compensation,” said Ken Abosch, a partner at Aon Hewitt, a global human resources company. “There are not many things in the world of compensation that are all that radical, but this is a drastic shift.”

According to Aon Hewitt’s annual survey on salaried employees’ compensation, the share of payroll budgets devoted to straight salary increases sank to a low of 1.8 percent in the depths of the recession. It dropped to 4.3 percent in 2001, from a high of 10 percent in 1981. It has rebounded modestly since the recession, but still only rose 2.9 percent in 2014, the survey of 1,064 organizations found. (These figures are not adjusted for inflation.)

Aon Hewitt did not even start tracking short-term rewards and bonuses — known as variable compensation — until 1988, when they accounted for an average of 3.9 percent of payrolls. Ten years later, that share had more than doubled to 8 percent. Last year, it hit a record 12.7 percent.

Of course, companies have long rewarded top executives and rainmakers with bountiful bonuses — and that continues to be true — but compensation experts say the prevalence and types of one-time rewards and perks have spread further down the ranks than ever before. Although pay-for-performance rewards for top achievers and signing bonuses to attract talent account for most of the one-shots, they also include company wide amenities and targeted perks, like lunches out with the boss or Visa gift cards.

“It affects the C.E.O. all the way down to the guy who sweeps the factory floor,” Mr. Abosch said. Ninety-one percent of the companies surveyed have at least one broad-based reward program, up from 78 percent in 2005 and 47 percent in 1991.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

The ACA Incentives People to Attain Health Insurance

Obamacare’s big stick doesn’t seem to be scaring many people into buying health insurance.

The health law includes many inducements for people to obtain health insurance — including free Medicaid coverage for many low-income Americans and subsidies for those with moderate incomes. But it also includes the notorious “individual mandate,” a fine for those who can afford insurance but don’t buy it.

Because the law, and the fine, are new, many policy experts expected that some people would decline to sign up for insurance until they were hit with a penalty at tax time. Forecasters have estimated a big bump in marketplace enrollment next year, the first sign-up period after people have been fined. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimates 10 million more people will have Obamacare plans next year. The law’s structure relies on even healthy and otherwise disinclined consumers to enter insurance markets to help stabilize prices.

Certainly, some people who might otherwise go uninsured have been persuaded by the penalty. Polls have shown that it is a well-known provision of the law. And studies of the uninsured have shown that mentioning the penalty changes some people’s thinking about health insurance. At the end of the normal enrollment period in February, about 11.7 million people had selected marketplace health plans or renewed their plans from 2014, according to the federal government.

But the Obama administration just conducted a small experiment into how much the penalty would affect the behavior of the remaining uninsured. And the results leave some experts concerned that next year’s sign-ups will come in below expectations.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Average Americans Can’t Afford Insurance Deductibles

Just because you have health insurance doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford all your medical bills, especially if you have a high deductible. So sometimes, it pays to negotiate.

A Commonwealth Fund study released this week found that nearly a quarter of working-age Americans who had health insurance in 2014 were “underinsured.” The report cited rising deductibles — the amount you must pay for care before insurance coverage begins — as a growing factor.

More people than ever before have health plans with deductibles, the report found, and more people have deductibles that are high relative to their incomes. Half of those who were underinsured reported problems paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt, the report found.

High deductibles squeeze many families because most Americans lack significant savings to help cover sizable bills. “Most Americans don’t have that much money in the bank,” said Karen Pollitz, a health policy expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

So consumers may be interested to know that the amount of a medical bill is not necessarily set in stone, said Erin Singleton, chief of mission delivery for the Patient Advocate Foundation, which assists people with chronic conditions. You can ask whether a discount can be applied, or whether the hospital has funds available for patients with a financial hardship.

Often, people are embarrassed to talk to professionals about discounting their bills, said Martin B. Rosen, a co-founder of Health Advocate, which helps patients with employer-based coverage. But, he said, “There’s no harm in asking” — just be polite.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

What Don Draper taught us about the Modern Man

Don Draper is the ultimate 1960s ad man from AMC’s Mad Men, which came to end today.  Don is a man with perfect style. He is supremely confident, cool under pressure, and admired by everyone for his creative genius and ability to close a deal.

Don’s ambition and drive overcame a traumatic childhood and a less than honorable tour of Korea with the US Army. At the height of Don’s success he had everything – a beautiful wife and children, a Manhattan apartment and the ultimate job, a successful leader of his own agency and a legend of his industry.  Don was a perfectionist, which seemed to be driven more by what he thought other people expected of him than his own priorities. With that, people came to expect perfection from Don. He was “the man.”

Don, however, was also a man whose emotions were in lockdown, as he obsessed with being successful and in control. As seen in the show’s opening credits, after his success came his spiraling downfall, triggered by a series of events: the loss of his second marriage to Megan, a daughter who disowned him, the decline of his agency, and eventually, the loss of his job.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

New York Moving to Value-Based Payment

Like the rest of the country, New York is moving—somewhat begrudgingly—toward a future in which hospitals and doctors are paid to keep patients healthy rather than be reimbursed based on the volume of procedures they perform on sick patients. Most providers and health plans agree that this shift from fee-for-service reimbursement to a model based on quality and lower costs is inevitable. There is far less consensus on how to arrive at that point.

At a Crain’s event held Tuesday in Manhattan, senior executives from local health care providers and insurers made the case that collaboration between the two industry segments—which often are at odds during contract negotiations—is critical to making the shift to value-based payments a success.

“UnitedHealthcare can’t do this alone. We all can’t do this alone,” said Dr. Samuel Ho, chief medical officer at the Minneapolis-based insurer, which provides services to 85 million Americans.

Commercial health plans and Medicaid, which collectively insure 16.3 million New Yorkers, tie about one-third of their payments to providers to value, according to a report released last week by the New York State Health Foundation. The federal government, through Medicare, wants to accelerate the process of linking payments to health outcomes. It hopes to use the model to avoid unnecessary hospital readmissions and manage such chronic illnesses as diabetes and high blood pressure. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal to make half of all Medicare payments tied to value by 2018.

Numerous challenges stand in the way. Insurers differ in the ways they define quality, and smaller physician practices have limited resources to invest in the information technology systems necessary to track the data needed to receive incentive payments.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

Data Released to The Public on Medicare Prescription Spending

The heartburn drug Nexium — whose advertisements have long been ubiquitous on television — was prescribed to 1.5 million Medicare patients in 2013, for a total cost of more than $2.5 billion, the largest amount spent on any drug prescribed through the government program, according to data released by Medicare officials on Thursday.

The data was the most detailed breakdown ever provided by government officials about the prescription claims of Medicare beneficiaries. It included information about 36 million patients, one million prescribers and $103 billion in spending on drugs under the program’s Part D in the year 2013, the most recent year available. The data did not take into account rebates that the drug manufacturers pay to the insurers that operate the Medicare beneficiaries’ drug plans.

Although the government has previously released similar data to outside entities — including ProPublica, the nonprofit news group — officials said they decided to make the information available on a public website to encourage experts to weigh in, potentially leading to new solutions for policy challenges, like how to contain costs.

“We know that there are many, many smart minds in this country,” Sean Cavanaugh, a deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “We are excited to unleash those minds and see what they can find in our data.”

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary