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Walt Bernard Podgurski,  Editor,  440-773-1108, 
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com

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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.
  Wednesday, 07/10/19 - https://DailyInsuranceReport.com 

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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS EXPERT EXPECTS HRA RULE TO 'SHAKE UP' INSURANCE MARKETS
BY JACK O'BRIEN / HealthLeaders

Less than a month after the Trump administration released a final rule on expanding access for tax-free health reimbursement arrangements (HRA) for employer-sponsored health insurance, an employee benefits expert said the move could have a "significant impact" on insurance markets.

Cowden Associates CEO Elliot Dinkin said the rule, which lets employers offer HRAs as an option for paying premiums on Medicare policies or purchasing health coverage, would provide "some protection" to covered individuals while addressing out-of-pocket costs associated with individual coverage."The new rule provides some flexibility to employers who would otherwise have been forced to either provide benefits or cancel coverage," Dinkin said in a statement.
"This gives employers an alternative in employee health coverage. If it works the way it is apparently designed to work, it could have a significant impact on the health insurance market while also creating a defined contribution alternative."

The new rule was released jointly in mid-June by the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor, and takes effect in January 2020.



FCC to Vote on New Rural Telehealth Program
Tracey Walker / Managed Healthcare EXECUTIVE
July 8, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote July 10 on the proposed Connected Care Pilot Program, which plans to spend $100 million to support telehealth and remote patient monitoring programs targeting low-income Americans and veterans, especially those living in rural areas.

According to Managed Healthcare Executive’s sister brand Medical Economics, the Connected Care program would support health projects designed to benefit low-income residents. It would focus on assisting healthcare providers secure the technology and broadband resources needed to launch remote patient monitoring and telehealth programs.

The program was unveiled in July 2018.



Six takeaways for US healthcare in Mary Meeker’s 2019 Digital Trends report
By Rebecca Sentance

Last month, Mary Meeker presented the 2019 edition of her annual Internet Trends report.

As usual, this landmark digital trends report covered a wide swathe of topics, from ecommerce and advertising to data growth, the changing nature of work to the latest developments in China.

This year, as she last did in 2017, Meeker dedicated a section of her report to trends in US healthcare, examining how technology and the internet are changing patient interactions with healthcare providers, improving access to health services, and improving the user experience of healthcare.

Here are the most prominent trends highlighted in Meeker’s report.

Digitisation of healthcare is being driven by consumers
Why measuring customer experience (CX) matters in pharma
Older patients are more engaged in decision-making
Electronic Health Records (EHR): rising adoption, but development is needed
New digital healthcare tools and systems are emerging to plug gaps
Major internet companies are increasingly trusted with healthcare data

Some of the innovations cited by Meeker include:
Collective Medical: Aligning care teams
Zocdoc & Solv: Improving availability of care
Nurx: Providing on-demand medication
Major internet companies are increasingly trusted with healthcare data
Big tech is developing its own healthcare solutions



Voya Financial Releases Findings on the Needs of Caregivers and Employees With Disabilities in the Workplace
John Jannarone / BUSINESS WIRE / YAHOO FINANCE

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), through its Voya Cares® program, released an educational white paper sharing findings from a recent proprietary survey that assessed the complex realities and needs of caregivers and employees with disabilities in the workplace. The paper — entitled “For the Benefit of All: How Organizations Win When They Recognize and Support Caregivers and Employees With Disabilities” — provides data, resources and recommendations to help inform plan sponsors and employee benefits decision makers on how to best support caregivers and employees with disabilities.
Download White Paper:



What's ahead: 5 money topics to watch for the rest of 2019
Russ Wiles / Arizona Republic

With the year now halfway over, 2019 has shaped up as a solid period for the economy and a good time for Americans to gain ground on their finances. Jobs are plentiful, stock and housing prices are rising, and both inflation and interest rates remain tame. Not everyone is prospering, but the overall momentum is favorable.

The second half of 2019 could look a lot like the first, but with increasing political rhetoric as the presidential race shifts into high gear. Here are some likely money themes over the remaining six months of the year:

1. Tracking the expansion
The economy has grown for 120 months now through June, matching the longest expansion ever. Even with first-quarter Gross Domestic Product notching an impressive 3.1% uptick, speculation will continue on just how long the current cycle can last. The short answer is that it can keep going indefinitely, as there's no immutable rule about the duration of expansions. However, economists and others will continue to look for indications of trouble.

2. Positive investment returns
In the absence of war, worsening trade tensions or other surprises, the second half of 2019 could remain favorable, especially with interest rates and inflation under control.

3. Promises, promises
With the presidential election campaign swinging into high gear, candidates will advance proposals that could greatly affect your finances. Examples include student-debt forgiveness plans, tax credits for renters, wealth taxes and even slavery reparations. Aside from the difficulty of deciding who should qualify for some of these benefits, such programs could be expensive. The national debt already exceeds $22 trillion. One campaign promise you probably won't hear is how to get all that red ink under control.

4. Retirement changes possible
No major Social Security reforms appear in the works for the rest of this year, but some modest retirement tweaks could be in order.

5. Mostly stable interest rates
Trump has called for lower interest rates to keep the economic momentum going. He might get his wish, with at least one Federal Reserve interest rate cut over the second half of 2019. But that won't drastically alter the current landscape of mostly stable rates and inflation.



Parties Reach Settlement Agreement in Anthem 401(k) Excessive Fee Case
The case is notable for arguing that an investment that had only a 4 basis point annual fee could have been replaced by one charging only 2 basis points.
By Rebecca Moore / PLANSPONSOR

The parties in an excessive fee lawsuit filed against the committee that oversees the Anthem 401(k) plan have reached a settlement agreement.

A February 19 docket entry in the case of Bell v. Anthem says, “The parties have reached a resolution subject to class approval.” The judge ordered that on or before March 15, 2019, the parties are to file a motion for preliminary approval of class settlement. Details of the settlement will be available then.

In the complaint, it is alleged that plan fiduciaries allowed unreasonable expenses to be charged to participants for administration of the plan, and that they selected and retained high-cost and poor-performing investments compared to available alternatives. The complaint suggests the Anthem plan, “as one of the country’s largest 401(k) plans … with over $5.1 billion in total assets and over 59,000 participants with account balances,” should have gotten as good or better a deal than anyone in the institutional investing markets, but it failed to do so in a variety of ways, leading to about $18 million in unnecessary fees/losses for participants.



The Financial Industry Preys on 401(k) Fees. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way.
Without change, we can expect a serious decline in retiree living standards.
BY Dean Baker, Truthout

there are two reasons why 401(k)s have not filled the gap created by the loss of traditional pensions. The first is simply that many workers don’t have them at their workplace. Either employers don’t enroll workers until they are employed for a year or two, or businesses find the paperwork associated with a 401(k) to be too big of a headache. As a result, only 50 percent of workers currently contribute to a 401(k).

The second big problem is that financial industry fees eat up much of what gets contributed to these accounts. Average expenses of 401(k)s run over 1.0 percent of holdings and in some companies as much as 2.0 percent. This is a huge deal.

For someone saving $3,000 a year, the 1.0 percent pulled out by financial industry fees will reduce retirement savings by almost $30,000 after 30 years. A worker paying 2.0 percent in annual fees will have handed almost $50,000 to the financial industry after 30 years.



Pairing HSAs and Retirement Benefits a Growing Strategy
Focus has shifted to maximizing employees’ investment opportunities.
by Patty Kujawa / Workforce

Even though health savings accounts have been around for nearly 16 years, employers are still having a tough time getting employees to understand the vehicle’s triple tax benefit in saving dollars today for health care costs tomorrow.

Employee education was the top concern for nearly 62 percent of employers in a newly released survey on HSAs by the Plan Sponsor Council of America. There was a significant difference between education and administration concerns, which ranked second at just under 16 percent.

People often confuse HSAs with flexible savings accounts, said Kenneth Forsythe, head of product strategy for Empower Retirement. Forsythe was part of a panel of experts speaking at the PSCA national conference in May. Part of the reason for the confusion is the number of acronym-rich savings accounts that can accompany high-deductible health care accounts, and that employers typically only talk about HSAs during open enrollment, he added.

The survey backed that up by showing that 76 percent of plan sponsors only offer HSA education during open enrollment. Only 21 percent offer education at different times during the year. Group presentations were the most popular education resource (59.9 percent), followed by HSA “how-to” guides (56.6 percent), and flyers (45.1 percent).



Sponsors OK with efforts to expand access for part-timers
MARGARIDA CORREIA / Pensions & Investments

Elliott O'Donovan
Diann Howland sees Congress as ‘thoughtful’ for helping individuals without unduly burdening plan sponsors.
A mandate in the SECURE Act requiring employers to extend 401(k) plan coverage to more part-time workers is something plan sponsors are willing to live with, according to industry groups.

"I don't think anybody is jumping up and down and saying we love it, but neither is anybody jumping up and down and saying we hate it," Greg Long, Alight Solutions' Washington-based public policy leader, said of the proposed new requirement in the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act.

Under the pending legislation, plan sponsors will have to open their 401(k) plans to employees who work at least 500 hours a year for three consecutive years. Currently, they must provide plan access to employees who work at least 1,000 hours a year, or about 19 hours a week.


  Archives

Monday, 07/08/19 - Kamala Harris Says ‘Medicare for All’ Wouldn’t End Private Insurance. It Would

Tuesday, 07/09/19 - Appeals court to weigh Obamacare as case looms over 2020 healthcare debate

Wednesday, 06/26/19 - Trump signs executive order to make health costs more transparent

Thursday, 06/27/19 - A Trio of Trump Rules Will Remake U.S. Health Insurance Markets

Friday, 06-28-09 - Democrats clash over ‘Medicare for all’ in first debate


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Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor
440-773-1108
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com