Tuesday, 01/11/22
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Walt Podgurski, Editor
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'Huge, huge numbers:' insurance group sees death rates up 40 percent over pre-pandemic levels
Shirin Ali / THE HILL / / Read Article

As the pandemic enters its second year running, the number of deaths the virus has caused is likely much greater than official numbers indicate, setting a historic record.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that excess deaths are associated with COVID-19 directly or indirectly, typically defined as the difference between the observed number of deaths in specific time periods and the expected number of deaths in the same time periods.

Currently, since Feb. 1, 2020, the CDC estimates there have been 942,431 excess deaths in the U.S.

That's a staggering amount, as J Scott Davison, CEO of insurance company OneAmerica, explained during a healthcare conference organized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce this week. Davison said that his company is seeing the highest death rates now than he’s ever seen before since he started in the insurance business.

OneAmerica offers employers across the country group life insurance, which generally covers people 18 to 64-years-old.

Even more alarming is where those death rates are hitting, with Davison saying it’s primarily among working aged people between the ages of 18 and 64 who are covered by OneAmerica's group life policies. The insurance company says that's similar to what the rest of the group life industry is seeing and is consistent with CDC data.



Humana halves 2022 Medicare Advantage enrollment outlook, CEO says aggressive pricing from marketplace rivals have played a role in the new projections, shifting the focus to business-wide profitability.
Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor / HEALTHCARE FINANCE / / Read Article

Major health insurer Humana is drastically reducing its Medicare Advantage enrollment estimates for 2022 due to a large number of terminations during the last enrollment period, revealing in a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the former projection of between 325,000 and 375,000 new MA members has been slashed to between 150,000 and 200,000 new members.

Humana also expects group MA membership to be generally flat throughout this year, as it doesn't anticipate any large accounts will be gained or lost.

According to Bloomberg, the news caused Humana shares to plunge on Thursday, which dragged down rivals' stocks as well. Humana shares fell 21% as of midday, while UnitedHealth Group shares dipped about 5.4%. Clover Health Investments and Oak Street Health, newer companies focused on Medicare, saw shares dip 8.4% and 7.6%, respectively, upon the news.

At a Goldman Sachs conference Thursday, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said aggressive pricing from marketplace rivals, which is likely unsustainable, played a role in the new projections, which will cause the company to focus more on business-wide profitability rather than margins in the individual Medicare business.



Medicare Seeks to Cut Drug Costs for People in Part D Plans
By Kerry Dooley Young / WebMD / / Read Article

The Biden administration said this week it intends to challenge insurance companies to deliver better service to people enrolled in Medicare, including applying discounts on drugs covered by Part D more directly to their pharmacy costs.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday unveiled a 360-page proposed rule that seeks many changes in how insurers manage their federal contracts. This proposed rule, for example, also would require insurers to show that they have enough contracted medical professionals when they want to create new Medicare Advantage plans or to expand existing ones.

The rule also seeks more accountability about how insurance companies spend Medicare’s money, including greater transparency about spending on supplemental benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, transportation, and meals.

With this proposed rule, CMS intends to ramp up oversight and stewardship of Medicare Advantage and use its authority to address drug costs, says Tricia Neuman, ScD, executive director of the Program on Medicare Policy at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.



Quit your job? Here's what to do about health insurance
By Tami Luhby, Kathryn Vasel / CNN Business / / Read Article

Life after work: Continuing health insurance

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) generally requires employers with more than 20 workers to offer a temporary extension of health coverage to former employees, typically for up to 18 months.

"Employers will sometimes subsidize the cost of COBRA, but most don't," said Simon. "And employers are permitted to charge up to 102% of the applicable premium for COBRA."

She added that employers are required to provide a COBRA notice that details an employee's rights and responsibilities, including coverage costs.

Keep in mind that getting family health insurance on the job costs workers and their employers more than $22,000 a year, on average, according to the 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey. The employee typically pays about $6,000 of the tab, while the company picks up the rest. The average annual premium for a single employee in 2021 topped $7,700 a year. The worker typically pays about $1,300, and the employer covers the remaining charge.
But under COBRA, workers are generally responsible for the entire tab.

(The federal government had provided a COBRA premium subsidy for those who involuntarily lost their jobs and their work-based coverage, but that benefit expired at the end of September.)

Another option is to find Affordable Care Act coverage on the public health exchanges. You can review available plans on healthcare.gov.
Open enrollment for 2022 coverage runs through January 15 in most states. But those who lose their job-based policies can sign up at any time of the year, typically within 60 days of their plan's termination. The Biden administration also has made it easier to obtain coverage in 2022 through special enrollment periods.



Why it is critical to care about your employees’ financial wellness
By Mark Heymann / HOTEL BUSINESS / / Read Article

As every hospitality leader tries to address declining employee satisfaction, one simple way to think about the problem is to spend two weeks in their shoes. Why two weeks? Because that’s typically the time frame that an employee is waiting for another paycheck to arrive, and those 14 days can feel like an eternity. According to research from PYMNTS.com, 125 million adults in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck. For hotels and all service-related businesses, what needs to change is clear: It’s time to eliminate that waiting period by allowing employees to have early wage access or instant pay, offered by a number of financial institutions and software companies.

With instant pay, workers can see their earnings in real-time based on time and attendance data, and they can get up to 50% of their earnings before their scheduled payday. So, suppose a member of your banquet team is trying to balance their bills. Rent payment is due next week, and an unexpected car repair must be paid tomorrow. Instant pay can play a role in making those immediate costs feel less overwhelming. By giving your employees the ability to use their funds earlier, you can help them avoid the stress of looking at an empty checking account. More importantly, you can help them steer clear of costly solutions to those small account balances like payday loan services that prey on distressed workers with excessively high fees.

Consider some of the other successful companies that have broken up with the traditional payroll system: Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Grubhub all offer the ability to cash out money on the same day it’s earned. A recent survey from the American Payroll Association shows that 25% of workers want on-demand access to their wages. As inflation eats away at earnings, that number is only poised to rise in 2022.



Agencies Release 2021 Form 5500 for Reporting in 2022
Annual updates include an inflation-adjusted increase for late-filing fees
Stephen Miller, CEBS / SHRM / / Read Article

Advance copies of Form 5500 information returns, used to report on plan year 2021 benefits during 2022, reflect an increase in maximum civil penalties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and address reporting for pooled employer plans, among other updates and adjustments.

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL's) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), along with the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), released advance copies of the 2021 Form 5500 and related instructions. For smaller filers, advance copies of the 2021 Form 5500-SF (short form) and related instructions also were made available, along with supplemental materials that include schedules and attachments.

Form 5500 annual return or report filing is due on the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends, with an optional two-and-a-half-month extension. For plans that follow a calendar year, Form 5500 for the prior year is due July 31, or Oct. 15 with the extension.



Treo Announces Whole-Person Digital Wellbeing Platform
Treo Wellness / PRNewswire / / Read Article

Treo Wellness, a division of Johnson Health Tech North America, announces the launch of a Whole-Person Digital Wellbeing Platform. This new digital platform is an affordable, turnkey solution for small to mid-sized employers. Employees can access the platform anywhere, anytime from an internet-connected tablet, computer, or smart phone.

"Our new Whole-Person Platform is the most personalized digital coaching solution on the market," said Nathan Pyles, Treo co-founder. "We empower your team to work on the health goals that matter most to them – whether that is reducing stress, healthier eating, exercising consistently, managing their weight or prediabetes, and more."



LifeSpeak Releases the Next Generation of Intuitive Mental Health and Wellness Support with Latest Platform Updates
BUSINESS WIRE / / Read Article

LifeSpeak Inc. (“LifeSpeak” or the “Company”) (TSX: LSPK), the mental health and wellbeing platform for employee and customer-focused organizations, today announced the latest generation of its platform, LifeSpeak 5.0.

“LifeSpeak 5.0 was designed to address direct feedback from our global client base and propelled by the urgent and ongoing global need for mental health education that can be confidentially accessed anytime and anywhere”

The newest version of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) – based platform makes it even easier for employees, customers, and their family members to find and engage with the most relevant expert-led content to improve mental health and wellness outcomes. LifeSpeak 5.0 includes the new Learning Hub and Training Hub features, enhanced functionality for discovery, a “bulletin board” option for companywide communications, and a new, intuitive design for improved user experience and increased ease of use.



Wavecrest and MassMutual Ventures Up Investment in Tier1 Financial Solutions to Accelerate Development of Integrated Customer Journeys
Tier1 Financial Solutions / PRNewswire / / Read Article

Tier1 Financial Solutions ("Tier1"), a leading provider of client relationship management ("CRM") solutions, AML compliance and fraud prevention solutions, has received new equity financing from a group of investors led by Wavecrest Growth Partners ("Wavecrest") and MassMutual Ventures. This latest investment in Tier1 will help drive the next generation of connectivity between compliance workflows and the customer experience – enabling Tier1 clients to create integrated, end-to-end journeys efficiently, cost-effectively and reliably for their customers.



Sun Life partners with Teledentistry.com to bring 24/7 dental provider access to members
Sun Life U.S. / PRNewswire / / Read Article

Sun Life U.S. has partnered with Teledentistry.com to bring members 24/7 virtual access to dental providers, whenever, and wherever they are. The service is automatically incorporated into members' dental coverage, and provides a safety net for those who need dental care in emergencies, while traveling, or at night or on weekends.


 





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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.