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Walt Bernard Podgurski,  Editor,  440-773-1108, 

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Editorial Mission Statement: The goal of this publication is to provide readers a broad selection of what is being written about the insurance industry and related issues. Some articles may have a “tilt” towards a particular perspective one way or another. Inclusion in this newsletter is not an endorsement of any views or content; but report the various and differing views appearing in media.
  Monday, 03/25/19 - https://DailyInsuranceReport.com 

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Name the much-criticized federal program that has saved the U.S. $2.3 trillion. Hint: it starts with Affordable

Even before the Affordable Care Act became law, about 90 percent of the conversation and criticism of it was about coverage. Little has been said about its ability to control costs.

March 23, the ninth anniversary of the ACA’s passage, presents a good opportunity to examine its legacy on cost control — a legacy that deserves to be in the foreground, not relegated to the background behind the exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and work requirements.

One month after the ACA had passed, the Office of the Actuary of the Department of Health and Human Services projected its financial impact in a report entitled “Estimated Financial Effects of the ‘Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act’, as Amended.” The government’s official record-keeper estimated that health care costs under the ACA would reach $4.14 trillion per year in 2017 and constitute 20.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Fast forward to December 2018, when that same office released the official tabulation of health care spending in 2017. The bottom line: cumulatively from 2010 to 2017 the ACA reduced health care spending a total of $2.3 trillion.

Related: Coverage for pre-existing conditions lives on, even though the Affordable Care Act seemed doomed
In 2017 alone, health expenditures were $650 billion lower than projected, and kept health care spending under 18 percent of GDP — basically a tad over where it was in 2010 when the ACA was passed. It did all of this while expanding health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans.

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Doctor On Demand Launches Synapse, a New Virtual Care Platform Delivering Next Generation Primary Care for Health Plan and Employer Populations

Doctor On Demand, the nation’s leading virtual care provider, today announced the launch of Synapse, a first-to-market fully-integrated platform that allows health plans and employers nationwide to deliver primary care coverage virtually for the first time. Synapse will integrate into health plans’ existing networks and provide patients with improved access to full mind and body care, inclusive of preventive health, chronic care, urgent care, and integrated behavioral health.

“Digital health innovations are changing our lives for the better and an innovative, virtual care solution will help solve many of the challenges in primary care and address the needs of patients, physicians, health plans, and employers.”

Research shows that healthcare outcomes and costs in the U.S. are strongly linked to the availability of primary care physicians and a continuum of care. Despite this, 30 percent of American adults and 45 percent of Millennials do not have a primary care physician. Over the next decade, this will be compounded by the expected physician shortfall of over 100,000 providers -- one third of whom are primary care physicians. With the population aging and the prevalence of chronic disease growing, enormous burdens on medicine, especially primary care, are rising.

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Key takeaways from SHRM’s legislative conference
Nick Otto / ebn

From Ivanka Trump hinting at new paid leave proposals to SHRM president Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., discussing new ways employers can address the talent shortage, the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual legislative conference tackled a number of issues that are on the minds of HR and benefit professionals.

For example, Tammy McCutchen, a principal at Littler Mendelson and former administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, shared her thoughts on how employers should approach the recently released proposed overtime rule. Even though the rule has not been finalized, employers still need to use this time to figure out what employees should get a salary boost and which should be reclassified to hourly work.

Here are some other key takeaways from this year’s conference.

SHRM is focused on helping employers fill jobs
How close is the U.S. to mandating paid parental leave?
Free speech is not a shield for bad behavior
Employers urged to prep now for DOL’s proposed overtime rule
One talent shortage solution: Applicants with criminal backgrounds

MassMutual’s new tool aims to get employees’ finances on track
Lee Conrad / ebn

Massachusetts Mutual Life has launched a benefits tool designed to help its clients’ employees assess and organize their finances. Specifically, it will help them balance short-term and long-term financial needs and even help generate a plan to address any problem areas.

The tool, dubbed MapMyFinances, replaces the insurer’s MapMyBenefits and is available at no charge to employers that already use MassMutual’s 401(k) services or voluntary insurance. It generates a score for users to assess their overall situation and in some cases provides guidance to help prioritize their financial choices and goals and try to improve their scores.

The new tool can help employees along their entire career path, from entry level to near-retirement, the company says.

Many Americans — especially middle-income workers — have acute financial needs, notes Tina Wilson, MassMutual’s head of investment solutions innovation. As one example, 37% of respondents to a survey from the firm reported feeling “not very” or “not at all” financially secure.

Money worries accompany many middle-Americans to work. Four in 10 respondents said they worry about money at least once a week while at work. For the less affluent —those earning less than $45,000 — fully half (51%) said they bring their financial concerns to work at least once a week and 20% said they do so daily, according to the study. These concerns have prompted some employers to roll out various financial wellness programs to help their workers. Indeed, industry surveys indicate that financial wellness is one of the most desired employee benefits.

2 Ways To Combine Charitable Giving And Life Insurance
Jamie Hopkins, Contributor / Forbes

Financial planning is an ongoing process that examines your goals, situation and finances in order to determine if and how these goals can be met. It’s not a product-centric process, but often we use financial products like mutual funds, annuities and/or life insurance to achieve goals in the most efficient manner.

But not every product needs to be a permanent fixture in your portfolio. As life changes, your goals evolve with it, and your ongoing need for certain products or strategies could change too.

One of the core products for protecting wealth in a household is life insurance. As you age, your need for life insurance could decrease or sometimes increase. If you have a life insurance policy you no longer need, one option might be to gift the policy to a charity if you feel charitably inclined.

Life insurance policies can be gifted or used for charitable purposes in several ways.

1. Give Away Your Existing Policy
2. Give a New Life Insurance Policy

Wisconsin governor pulls state out of Obamacare lawsuit
Democrat Evers takes action after judge strikes down limitations on gubernatorial power that Republican lawmakers enacted after Republican Walker’s loss at ballot box
(AP) / MarketWatch

Gov. Tony Evers has pulled Wisconsin out of a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act after a circuit court judge blocked legislation limiting the powers of his office passed by Republican lawmakers during a post-election lame-duck session and signed by Evers’s predecessor, Republican Scott Walker.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess brushed aside GOP concerns that the move would leave thousands of statutes passed in so-called extraordinary sessions susceptible to challenge.

Republican legislative leaders vowed an appeal.

A coalition of liberal-leaning groups alleged the legislature was meeting illegally when it passed the lame-duck bills in December. Democrat Evers beat Walker by a 49.6%-to-48.5% margin.

GAYLA CAWLEY / Itemlive.com

LYNN (MA) — The city could see a budget savings of $10.4 million this year if officials switch to the state’s group health insurance plan, according to the findings of a new report recommended to the mayor and City Council by Lynn’s state fiscal stability officer, Sean Cronin.

Cronin has said employee health insurance is one of the major factors the city needs to address in order to balance its budget. It’s one of the main contributors that landed Lynn in financial trouble several years ago as the city was purposely underfunding its employee health insurance, he said.

Although there would be a reduction in health insurance premiums with the switch, the new plan could result in increased out-of-pocket expenses, or a net increase in health care costs, for active and retired city employees who need to use their health insurance more often, according to Cronin, senior deputy commissioner of local services for the Department of Revenue, who oversees the city’s budget.

Hartwig Moss Insurance Agency discloses data breach affecting 1,100 customers
Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Hartwig Moss Insurance Agency, a fifth-generation New Orleans business on Canal Street, revealed Wednesday (March 20) that a data breach may have exposed personal info for roughly 1,100 customers.

The breach involved basic information, including names, birthdates and driver’s license numbers, taken from the company’s insurance accounts, according to a news release. The release said “limited medical information” for a “small number of individuals" may have also been accessed.

No. 1 Tip To Avoid Liability For 401(k) Plans
Fred Reish, Contributor / Forbes

A good question for employers to ask is “What do I need to do to avoid fiduciary liability for my 401(k) plan?”

There is a lot that can be done to manage that risk . . . too much for one article, more like a book. But, here’s my top tip.

Most 401(k) lawsuits against employers are about expenses . . . the cost of plan’s investments and its recordkeeper. (A “recordkeeper” is the primary service provider for 401(k) and 403(b) plans. In most cases, the recordkeeper maintains the website for the plan, executes the employee-directed transactions, and provides the daily and quarterly accountings of the employees’ investments. And, that’s just a partial list of their services.)

The claims in those lawsuits are that employers pay too much for the investments and services. If true, that reduces the value of the employees’ accounts.

While the employer is the primary fiduciary for a plan, most companies appoint committees to make decisions about their plans. As a result, the committee members are fiduciaries. For ease of reading, this article uses “committee” to refer to the fiduciary decision-makers.

Why it just became easier for employers to dump retirees’ pensions

Traditional pensions are disappearing in America, and the federal government just made it easier for employers to get rid of them.

With no fanfare in early March, the Treasury Department issued a notice that allows employers to buy out current retirees from their pensions with a one-time lump sum payment. The decision reverses Obama-era guidance, issued in 2015, that had effectively banned the practice after officials determined that lump-sum payments often shortchanged seniors.

Now, advocates for the elderly worry that millions of people receiving monthly pension checks could be at risk.

“Permitting plans — for their own financial benefit — to replace joint and survivor or other annuities with lump-sum payments will reduce the retirement security of both workers and their spouses,” AARP Legislative Counsel David Certner said.

Fidelity sued again for 'illegal' 401(k) fees
Greg Iacurci / InvestmentNews

Fidelity Investments has been sued by 401(k) participants from three different retirement plans who allege the firm charged an "illegal and undisclosed" fee to certain business partners, resulting in higher costs and reduced retirement savings for investors.

The latest Fidelity lawsuit — Gina Summers et al v. FMR LLC et al — claims that Fidelity, since 2016, has charged investment companies a "substantial" fee as a condition of offering their investment products to 401(k) investors.

Plaintiffs claims the fee, which Fidelity characterizes as an "infrastructure fee," increased fund expenses and wasn't disclosed to 401(k) clients. That represents a breach of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which requires disclosure to plan sponsors of such marketing and distribution fees, according to the lawsuit, filed March 18 in Massachusetts district court.

Fidelity spokesman Michael Aalto said the company denies the allegations and intends to defend itself "vigorously."

"Fidelity fully complies with all disclosure requirements in connection with the fees that it charges, and any assertion to the contrary is not only misleading, but simply false," Mr. Aalto said.

Hub International Acquires The Assets Of Colorado-Based RiteHealth Solutions, Inc.

Hub International Limited (Hub), a leading global insurance brokerage, announced today that it has acquired the assets of RiteHealth Solutions, Inc. (RiteHealth). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Located in Lafayette, Colorado, RiteHealth is a boutique employment benefits brokerage firm with more than 20 years of experience in providing clients with employee benefits and consulting services. RiteHealth is owned and operated by Rachel Zeman. Ms. Zeman will join Hub Colorado as a senior employee benefits consultant.


Monday, 03/18/19 - Health Insurance Department takes over Arkansas marketplace

Tuesday, 03/19/19 - Reinventing Life Insurance Agency Distribution Globally

Wednesday, 03/20/19 - Beto O’Rourke’s Health Care Proposal Is Not Medicare for All, but It Is Ambitious

Thursday, 03/21/19 -
401(k) record keepers competing with advisers on financial wellness

Friday, 03/22/19 - She Owed $227,000 in Medical Bills—Even With Insurance. Here's What it Took to Pay Them

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Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor