Open Enrollment is Here, Save with ChamberCare

Piggybank

The end of the year is approaching, which means your organization is likely exploring health insurance options for 2018. Did you know that since 2004, the Indiana Chamber has helped thousands of small businesses receive significant savings on this ever-growing expense? As your organization makes this important decision, please consider our ChamberCare Solutions program, which includes the following options:

  • ChamberCare Business Resources: Save money by avoiding community rating and receive significant assistance with HR and payroll functions.
  • ChamberCare Savings: An excellent choice for companies with 51-99 employees. Save 5% on any Anthem plan.
  • ChamberCare Exchange: Access to quality, affordable health plans that are ACA-compliant. Also, deep discounts on dental, vision, life and disability coverage.

As you navigate these important decisions, be sure to ask your insurance agent if ChamberCare Solutions is a good option for your business. Visit our web site for more information.

Health Insurance Assistance for Your Lower Income Employees

The following was provided by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration:

HIP Employer Link is the state of Indiana’s program to help your eligible workers with their health insurance costs. Once your company is enrolled, for free, eligible employees can then sign up to receive assistance towards their employer-sponsored insurance premium and deductible throughout the insurance year.

How It Works: When an employee enrolls in HIP Employer Link and your health plan, you continue to deduct their health insurance premium from their pay. Each month, before the cost is deducted, HIP Employer Link sends the employee a pre-payment check for the amount of the deduction, minus a small monthly contribution of 2% of the employee’s household income.

Employee Eligibility: Eligible employees are Indiana residents, aged 19-64, who earn 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or less, and who are eligible for an enrolled employer’s insurance plan. For instance, the income limit for a household of four (either two parents and two children, or one parent and three children) is just over $34,000. For a household of two, the income limit is just over $22,000.

The program is free to employers and requires very little time on your part. Signing up your organization is simple with the online application and a quick upload of insurance plan documents. Employers are only responsible for verifying the employment of any enrollees; the state of Indiana is responsible for income verification. You can learn more about the program by visiting http://hipemployerlink.in.gov.


ChamberCare Solutions from the Indiana Chamber
Indiana Chamber members also have access to a full range of high-quality group insurance plans and options through the ChamberCare Solutions program, a partnership between the Chamber and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield that has served thousands of Chamber members for the past fourteen years. Retain your valuable employees, attract new talent and take advantage of significant savings with the right plan for your business’ unique needs and preferences. Ask your insurance agent, or contact us at (317) 264-6858 or membership@indianachamber.com for questions and additional details. 

Brotherhood Mutual Lives Up to Name by Helping Staffers’ Children

????????????????????????????????????????????For the upcoming May/June edition of BizVoice, I’ve written several stories about companies making the Best Places to Work in Indiana list.

In speaking with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company in Fort Wayne — a company that has made the list many times, I learned an important tidbit about how the organization helps the families of its staffers. By employing every college age kid whose parent works for the company for a period of time (40 hours per week for six to 12 weeks, starting at a salary of $10 per hour), Brotherhood Mutual helps these students gain quite an advantage.

“They may start doing data entry or working on the grounds, but as they continue through their college careers and pick their majors, we try to place them (in a related job),” explains Mark Robison, chairman and president. “So if they’re a graphic artist, they’ll be in our communications department — and accounting majors will be in our finance department. Or for upper classmen, if we don’t have a good fit for them, we’ll work with them and place them (and sponsor their work at an outside organization).”

He adds that his son was able to gain two internships in social work through the program, including one in Los Angeles.

“This year, we had 48 students apply – and we have 360 employees, so that many students coming in for the summer really changes the dynamic of the workplace,” Robison relays. “There’s more energy and it’s more exciting. The cool part is parents are taking care of each other’s kids, so the camaraderie is incredible.”

The company also supports employees’ adoption efforts, among many other family-focused benefits offered. This type of attitude is likely one of the reasons Brotherhood Mutual will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 — a remarkable milestone indeed.

Look for the article featuring Brotherhood Mutual and many others in the upcoming May/June edition of BizVoice.

CBO Estimate of Those Who Will Lose Employer-Provided Health Insurance Under ACA Doubles

The Washington Times reports that many more Americans than previously thought will lose employer-provided health insurance due to the newly enacted health care law, supported by President Obama. This unfortunately contradicts his campaign rhetoric during the 2012 debates and speeches on the matter.

President Obama's health care law will push 7 million people out of their job-based insurance coverage — nearly twice the previous estimate, according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday.

CBO said that this year's tax cuts have changed the incentives for businesses and made it less attractive to pay for insurance, meaning fewer will decide to do so. Instead, they'll choose to pay a penalty to the government, totaling $13 billion in higher fees over the next decade.

But the non-partisan agency also expects fewer people to have to pay individual penalties to the IRS than it earlier projects, because of a better method for calculating incomes that found more people will be exempt.

Overall, the new health provisions are expected to cost the government $1.165 trillion over the next decade — the same as last year's projection.

With other spending cuts and tax increases called for in the health law, though, CBO still says Mr. Obama's signature achievement will reduce budget deficits in the short term.

During the health care debate Mr. Obama had said individuals would be able to keep their plans.

Nearly 600 to Benefit From Insurance Refunds

Small businesses and their employees can certainly use some good news in these still unsettled economic times. It came for nearly 600 organizations and their workers from what might be termed a nontraditional source — the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI).

The relief comes in the form of $2.75 million in refunds from the subsidiaries (Time Insurance Company, Union Security Insurance and John Alden Life Insurance Company) of Assurant Health. The reason: the Assurant companies were charging small businesses rate increases since October 2010 that had not been approved by IDOI.

IDOI Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson says, "Small businesses everywhere already struggle to provide health insurance to their employees because of the cost. I am pleased we were able to negotiate a settlement that makes employers whole."

The reason for the problem, according to IDOI, which has authority from the Indiana General Assembly to review health insurance rates.

In reviewing rates, the Department considers the rate justification provided by the company and determines independently if the company’s filing is sound and justified. Because Assurant’s policy forms had been on file since 2007, Assurant believed that its renewal rates were not subject to review by the Department. After being contacted by the Department about its concerns, Assurant worked out this agreement which ensures employers will promptly receive refunds.

IDOI encourages consumers and business owners to visit the Rate Watch web site to monitor rate filings in order to be more engaged with the process, submit comments, budget and plan for health insurance costs. Questions or concerns can be addressed online or by calling (800) 622-4461.

Kudos to IDOI, as well as Assurant for doing the right thing when the problem was discovered. 

Insurance Savings Available for Drug-Free Hoosier Workplaces

Drug-Free Hoosiers — a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration — is available to provide Indiana businesses with 5% savings on workers’ compensation insurance premiums if they can maintain a certified drug-free workplace. These savings have been available since 1999, but not all businesses are aware of this. 

View the Schedule Rating from the Indiana Compensation Rating Bureau to see what is available and if your company qualifies.

For more, check out the Drug-Free Hoosiers web site or contact Mary Wellnitz of The Figment Group Inc. at mwellnitz@figmentgroupinc.com.

Supreme Court to Fill Week With Health Care Arguments

When the federal health care reform law of 2010 began winding its way through various lower courts, it was not clear whether the ultimate destination would be the Supreme Court. The justices, after all, weigh many factors in determining their caseload.

But some conflicting rulings along the way made it less of a surprise when the "Supremes" recently indicated they would indeed consider various issues surrounding the far-reaching law. Now, even more information has come out about the unprecedented level of attention coming in early 2012. The Washington Post reports:

The high court scheduled arguments for March 26th, 27th and 28th over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aims to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans. The arguments fill the entire court calendar that week with nothing but debate over President Obama’s signature domestic health care achievement.

With the March dates set, that means a final decision on the massive health care overhaul will likely come before Independence Day in the middle of Obama’s re-election campaign. The new law has been vigorously opposed by all of Obama’s prospective GOP opponents.

The justices will start the week of arguments that Monday with one hour on whether court action is premature because no one yet has paid a fine for not participating in the overhaul. Tuesday’s arguments will take two hours, with lawyers debating the central issue of whether Congress overstepped its authority by requiring Americans to purchase health care insurance or pay a fine. Finally, Wednesday’s arguments will be split into two parts, with justices hearing 90 minutes of debate over whether the rest of the law can take effect even if the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional and an extra hour of arguments over whether the law goes too far in coercing states to participate in the health care overhaul by threatening a cutoff of federal money. 

Insurance by the Numbers

When the subject these days is health care, that dreaded six-letter "r" word that ends in "form" usually follows. Let’s skip that topic and its consequences. Instead, a few interesting insurance facts, courtesy of The Council of State Governments and its annual The Book of the States.

  • Top five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Massachusetts (97%), Hawaii (92.5%), Wisconsin (91.8%), Minnesota (91.7%) and Maine (91.2%)
  • Bottom five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Texas (74.8%), New Mexico (77.5%), Florida (79.8%), Mississippi (81.2%) and Louisiana (81.5%)
  • On a regional basis, percent insured are 88.6% in the Midwest, 88.5% in the East, 83.9% in the South and 82.8% in the West
  • Where people get their insurance: 53.7%, employer; 13.2%, Medicaid; 12.1%, Medicare; 4.9%, individual
  • People under age 65: 65% have private insurance and 17% are uninsured
  • Children under age 18: 58% have private insurance, 34% are on a public health plan and 8.9% are uninsured

What do all the numbers mean? Let us know your interpretation.

How Health Care Reform Will Impact Businesses

The world of public policy shook Sunday when the health care reform bill passed in the House. Now in the aftermath, supporters and detractors debate with their friends and colleagues over its impact. What’s more, many business owners are now left wondering what this means for them. The Christian Science Monitor offers about the most coherent and concise synopsis I’ve seen. Read on:

Let’s start with a caveat: that dry cleaner, and probably the restaurant, might be too small to be affected by some of the most important business-related elements in the bill. Employers with 50 or fewer workers would be exempt from coverage provisions.

But for top executives at firms with 50 workers or more, the most important question may be this: would the health care reform bill require us to offer health insurance to our employees?

The answer to that is “no,” strictly speaking. But if you don’t, you might have to pay fairly large fees to Uncle Sam.

How does the bill work for businesses?

Here’s how that works: If you are a firm with more than 50 employees, and do not offer health insurance as a benefit, and at least one of your full-time employees gets a subsidy from the federal government to purchase health insurance on his or her own, you would have to pay Washington a fee of $2,000 for every one of your full-time workers. (Company accountants take note: you could subtract the first 30 of your employees from that assessment.)

Got that?

Also, even if you do offer coverage, you might have to take some extra action to help any of your low- or middle-income workers who want to buy insurance on their own.

Take an employee who makes less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which today is about $10,800 for an individual, or $22,000 for a family of four.

Perhaps that employee is finding firm-offered insurance expensive. If their share of health premiums is more than 8 percent of their income (but less than 9.8 percent), they would have the option of going out and buying insurance on their own through the new-fangled “exchange” marketplaces the health care reform bill would establish.

And you, as an employer, would have to help them. You’d have to provide them a “free choice voucher” equal to what the firm would have kicked in to provide coverage in the company plan.

When do the changes take effect?
All of the above changes would take effect beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

One final item: if you’re a firm with more than 200 employees, and you do offer health insurance, you would have to automatically enroll your workers in the plan.

They could opt out of the coverage. But they are the ones that would have to make that decision.

Here is a video from last week of Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discussing the bill, labeling it "poor public policy" due to its tax increases on payroll, medical devices, etc., which will lead to job cuts. You agree?

Braly: Tackle Both Health Care Coverage and Costs

Angela Braly, CEO of the largest health insurance provider in the country in Indianapolis-based WellPoint, wanted to make two things clear during her Economic Club of Indiana speech today. At some point, the debate that is taking place in Washington and around the country has shifted from health care reform to health insurance reform — and it needs to shift back. Braly, in her remarks before a sellout crowd, said:

  • Inefficiencies in health care are driving up costs at an unsustainable rate
  • Current incentives are wrong in the traditional Medicare system with payment for quantity instead of quality — and she fears the same cost shifting that takes place now would occur in a public option plan
  • "We won’t solve the problem by only focusing on the insurance side of the equation."

Braly notes that Massachusetts has made progress in reducing the number of uninsured in its state, but that system costs have increased from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion this year. The lesson for the federal level, she adds, is that coverage and costs must be tackled together.

An important topic that has been lost in the shuffle, Braly says, is malpractice reform. The fears of legal action "prevent more disclosure and communication about what might have went wrong. There are tests that are probably unnecessary and diagnostic tools used excessively because of the fears of medical malpractice." The arguments, however, have "fallen on deaf ears" on Capitol Hill.

The WellPoint leader opened her remarks by stating she is an advocate for reform, that all people should have insurance coverage and that insurers should offer coverage to all, including those with pre-existing conditions. But to make all of that possible, that shift in focus must take place. In answering questions, she defended her company’s 4.1% profit margin, said that WellPoint and the industry were prepared to continue to innovate and closed with her thoughts on one action item if she were leading the way in Congress.

"Focus on what is driving costs and how we can affect that. There are great discussions happening, but it doesn’t always make it to the bill." Earlier, she had ended her prepared remarks by saying about reform: "It won’t be easy, and it should not be quick."

Braly’s speech is available here and on the Economic Club of Indiana site. John Stossel of ABC News’ "20/20" is up next on October 6.