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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.
  Tuesday, 08/27/19 - https://DailyInsuranceReport.com 

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Democratic voters prefer Obamacare tweaks to Medicare for All
By Michelle L. Price and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar / The Associated Press / The Columbus Dispatch

Rank-and-file Democrats appear to be shifting to the middle on health care, worried about what’s politically achievable on their party’s top 2020 issue.

While “Medicare for All” remains hugely popular, the majority say they’d prefer building on “Obamacare” to expand coverage instead of a new government program that replaces America’s mix of private and public insurance.

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Highlighted by a recent national poll, the shifting views are echoed in interviews with voters and the evolving positions of Democratic presidential candidates. Some have backed away from the government-run plan championed by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts that for months had seemed to be gaining momentum.

New Study Reveals Employer Investment in Health Benefits Has Minimal Impact on Employee Health
By Mayuri Chaudhary HR TECHNOLOGIST

New research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services sponsored by League Inc., North America's enterprise health OS, illustrates a disconnect between companies' investment in health benefits and the impact on employee health. As a result, employers are realizing that modernizing the employee health experience is more crucial than ever.

As competition for talent increases and health care costs continue to skyrocket, companies are turning their attention and resources to redesigning the health benefits experience as a way to reign in costs while attracting and retaining skilled employees. In North America, employers are spending an estimated $15,000 per employee to provide health care benefits to their teams and these costs are continuing to rise. The survey of 238 executives found that 90% of respondents view employee health benefits as an important way to demonstrate their organization's understanding and concern for the needs of their workers. What's more, more than half (51%) of organizations expect such benefits will become an even higher strategic priority over the next three years.

Despite the massive investment employers are making, the survey revealed a stark lack of awareness among employees:

58% of survey respondents report that employees are unaware of the company-provided health benefits to which they are entitled; and
63% say employees don't know enough about how to leverage their benefits.

Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration: Definition of "Employer" Under Section 3(5) of ERISA—Association Retirement Plans and Other Multiple-Employer Plans
Office of Public Affairs / Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration:

GAO reviewed the Department of Labor (Labor), Employee Benefits Security Administration's new rule on the definition of "Employer" under section 3(5) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—association retirement plans and other multiple-employer plans. GAO found that the final rule (1) expands access to affordable quality retirement saving options by clarifying the circumstances under which an employer group or association or a professional employer group or association or professional employer organization may sponsor a multiple employer workplace retirement plan under title I of the ERISA; and (2) permits certain working owners without employees to participate in a MEP sponsored by an employer group or association.

Enclosed is our assessment of Labor's compliance with the procedural steps required by section 801(a)(1)(B)(i) through (iv) of title 5 with respect to the rule. If you have any questions about this report or wish to contact GAO officials responsible for the evaluation work relating to the subject matter of the rule, please contact Janet Temko-Blinder, Assistant General Counsel, at (202) 512-7104.
View Decision: https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/701020.pdf

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Employer wellness programs controversial, ineffective, expert says

Because there are so many programs, they vary considerably company to company, Appleby said. Some are simple, like a stop smoking class, a weight management class, a lecture about nutrition or a gym discount. Others include health checkups and physical tests to incentivize healthier practices.

This second category is where controversy as risen. Some companies require measurable results to receive financial and other incentives, resulting in complaints about violation of privacy.

“As these programs have grown, some of them have become more intrusive, and that has raised concerns by privacy advocates and some employees that these really aren’t voluntary,” Appleby said.

Healthcare Virtual Assistant Market to Reach $1.76B by 2025
by Jasmine Pennic

The global healthcare virtual assistant market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.7% from 2018 to reach $1.76 billion by 2025, according to market research published by Meticulous Research.

Virtual assistants are AI and rule-based systems that interact with humans to perform various tasks. These assistants use cognitive technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and neural networks to enable interactive communications with the end-users. Virtual assistant technology in the healthcare industry can assist in transforming various health processes and improve healthcare delivery, worldwide. It helps in improving healthcare quality, patient care, and patient outcome at lower costs.

Key Market Drivers

Currently, there is an increasing demand for various types of virtual assistant solutions, globally, which is primarily attributed to the increasing focus on patient-centric care delivery, growing adoption of IoT, growing internet connectivity and smartphone devices, and increasing focus on patient engagement. In addition, the shortage of healthcare professionals, increasing burden of lifestyle diseases, and need of reducing healthcare costs are also expected to contribute to the growth of the healthcare virtual assistants market. However, lack of awareness among healthcare professionals, data privacy and security awareness may dampen the growth of this market during the forecast period of 2018 to 2025.

Increasing need and demand of the healthcare professionals to spend more time with patients and better communication through incorporation of technological tools in healthcare practices are driving the focus on various patient engagement technologies. Virtual assistants can easily automate the task of patient engagement by automating patient interactions through the use of chatbots or smart speakers. The chatbots product segment is estimated to command the largest share of the overall healthcare chatbots market in 2019, mainly due to increasing advancements in natural language processing & machine learning models.

Healthcare Virtual Assistants Market by Product

The global healthcare virtual assistants’ market is primarily segmented by product
1. chatbots and smart speakers)
2. Technology (speech recognition)
3. Text-to-speech, and text based)
4. End user (providers, payers, and other end users)

Estate Planning: Life insurance and trusts
DENNIS FORDHAM / Lake County News

Death benefits payable from a life insurance policy on the death of the insured can be considerable.

Such benefits can either be paid directly to one or more individual beneficiaries or be paid to a trust administered for their benefit.

A trust can own and/or be the death beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Unlike retirement plans, there is no income tax disadvantage to naming a trust as the death beneficiary of a life insurance policy.

Moreover, for very high net worth persons, having an irrevocable life insurance trust purchase and own the life insurance policy is a way to keep a considerable asset outside of their estate and so minimize federal estate taxes.

Nowadays, however, with the estate tax threshold at around 11.2 million dollars far fewer persons are concerned with estate tax minimization.

Nonetheless, naming a trust, including a revocable living trust, as a death beneficiary on a life insurance policy offers other advantages: It allows for more contingency planning in the event that the primary death beneficiary does not survive to inherit; it allows for cash to fund a trust that may otherwise be short on cash; it allows for the death benefits to be held in further trust in order to protect such benefits and/or the beneficiary; and it allows for the management of the death benefits by a trustee.

You Misunderstood the Valuation: Court Rejects ESOP Fiduciary Breach Suit - Employee Benefits Alert
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP / JDSUPRA

A federal trial court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a participant in an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) claiming that fiduciaries of the ESOP caused it to overpay for stock of the company in a leveraged transaction. The court concluded that, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the valuations of the company stock, the plaintiff’s belief that she had suffered an injury was erroneous and that she lacked standing to bring the suit.

Parts of California are too wildfire-prone to insure
There was skepticism that homeowners were losing their insurance in these areas, but it now seems to be true
NATHANAEL JOHNSON / salon.com / Grist

California is facing yet another real estate-related crisis, but we’re not talking about its sky-high home prices. According to newly released data, it’s simply become too risky to insure houses in big swaths of the wildfire-prone state.

Last winter when we wrote about home insurance rates possibly going up in the wake of California’s massive, deadly fires, the insurance industry representatives we interviewed were skeptical. They noted that the stories circulating in the media about people in forested areas losing their homeowners’ insurance was based on anecdotes, not data. But now, the data is in and it’s really happening: Insurance companies aren’t renewing policies areas climate scientists say are likely to burn in giant wildfires in coming years.

Insurance companies dropped more than 340,000 homeowners from wildfire areas in just four years. Between 2015 and 2018, the 10 California counties with the most homes in flammable forests saw a 177 percent increase in homeowners turning to an expensive state-backed insurance program because they could not find private insurance.

In some ways, this news is not surprising. According to a recent survey of insurance actuaries (the people who calculate insurance risks and premiums based on available data), the industry ranked climate change as the top risk for 2019, beating out concerns over cyber damages, financial instability, and terrorism. While having insurance companies on board with climate science is a good thing for, say, requiring cities to invest in more sustainable infrastructure, it’s bad news for homeowners who can’t simply pick up their lodgings and move elsewhere.


Monday, 08/26/19 - Surprise out-of-network bills are hurting workers’ wallets and employers’ bottom lines

Tuesday, 08/20/19 - Buyout firm Centerbridge nears $1.5 bln deal for GoHealth -sources

Wednesday, 08/21/19 - PTO Exchange Secures $3 Million in Funding to Transform Employee Benefits for the Future of Work

Thursday, 08/22/19 - Cigna seeks sale of group benefits insurance business, valued as high as $6 billion

Friday, 08-23-19 - Could next year be the beginning of the end of traditional employer-sponsored health insurance?

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Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor