Welcome to the first issue of our newsletter. On a quarterly basis, we look forward to bringing you the latest news from our organizations, in addition to developments and guidance on the topics that impact your business every day. This newsletter represents a number of enhancements we are launching as we always strive to improve the way we interact with our clients.
As part of the newsletter, we’ll cover a variety of topics including human resources, health insurance and ancillary benefits, payroll, taxation, compliance, safety, and many more. Each of the articles will be uploaded onto the CenturySolutions.org website so our clients can reference both new and archived articles as needed.
Bene-Fit Solutions Vice President of Sales Tyler Johnston said the decision to send a regular newsletter to clients was part of a focused push to improve client communication and add value to the relationship.
“We value our client relationships greatly and it is important we continue to evolve and improve on how we work together,” Tyler said.
“This newsletter is the first step towards a number of changes we are making. We are committed to delivering it quarterly to your inbox and we’ll continue to work hard to add more features, including a HR, payroll and compliance calendar, in upcoming issues.
“Beyond the newsletter, we have also launched a new website at CenturySolutions.org which is much more intuitive and functional than its predecessor. And plans are also in motion to modernize and consolidate our branding.”
Tyler added that if any clients had questions about the newsletter or other changes, they were welcome to give him a call on (719) 680-3589.
Virtual doctors provide convenience and quality
While virtual video visits have been long recognized for their convenience, a recent survey from Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has revealed they are also matching the quality of regular office visits.
Virtual video visits are video chat communications between a health professional and patient using a computer or tablet via a secure application.
Researchers surveyed 254 patients after their first virtual visit via the MGH TeleHealth Program. They also polled 61 clinicians who participated in the first full year of the program. The findings included:
Sixty-two percent of patients reported that the quality of virtual video visits was similar to that of office visits.
Twenty-one percent of patients felt that the overall quality of virtual video visits was better.
Sixty-eight percent of patients rated virtual video visits at either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.
Most patients (79 percent) reported finding a convenient time for a follow-up virtual video visit was easier than a traditional office visit.
The majority of health professionals providing virtual video visits (59 percent) also said the quality was similar to that of office visits.
However, one third of clinicians thought the quality of office visits was better.
Karen Donelan, paper lead author and senior scientist at the MGH-based Mongan Institute Health Policy Center, said some of the study participants were parents of children who required regular visits or older patients who struggled with travel.
“It did not surprise us that they found virtual video visits more convenient, but we were impressed that nearly all perceived the quality of care or communication to be the same or better than at the traditional and familiar office visits.”
The MGH Telehealth Program was launched in 2012. At the time of the study, virtual video visits for follow-up care was available for psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, primary care, and oncology.
Details of the research are available by clicking here.
Consolidation of health insurance and drug benefits changing service landscape
Consolidation within healthcare is once again driving news headlines with Anthem, Cigna, CVS Health, Humana and UnitedHealth now controlling both health insurance and pharmacy benefits for more than 125 million Americans.
Traditionally operating independently, it is the role of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of insurance plans and employers. An industry shakeup in recent years has led to the three biggest players – Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and OptumRx now all being linked to big health insurers.
Driving recent headlines was a March announcement by Anthem that it would wind down its contract with Express Scripts, which has previously managed its prescription drugs benefits. Anthem has instead launched its own drug negotiator called IngenioRx, which is promising greater transparency and a more holistic approach to healthcare.
Anthem’s decision to launch IngenioRx follows Cigna’s December purchase of Express Scripts. Other health insurers with interests in PBMs include:
UnitedHealthcare and OptumRx (a PBM that got significantly bigger after it absorbed Catamaran in 2015).
CVS acquired Aetna to pair with its existing PBM, Caremark.
Humana also has its own PBM.
While industry consolidation is of course not new, pressure is growing for each of the companies to prove they can provide better value to consumers.
According to the Health Care Cost Institute, national healthcare spending – which accounts for 18 percent of GDP – reached a per-person high of $5,641 in 2017, an increase of four percent.
Century Financial Group ‘benefits guru’ Stephanie Howell said it will be interesting to see in the months and years ahead how the industry responds to the rapid consolidation.
“While these acquisitions are not the first time we have seen health insurers and PBMs operate under one roof, it is fair to say that recent developments appear to have changed the landscape forever,” she said.
“It remains to be seen whether all of this results in material changes, however we do hope to see a positive impact on the price of health insurance plans for our clients and their employees.”
Keeping your employee handbook relevant
Clients are being encouraged to review their employee handbooks and policies following new or evolving developments in social media, data protection, IRS changes and smoking/marijuana use.
Important updates for your employee handbook may include:
Ensuring references to social media and data protection continue to appropriately address work usage, including parameters on access, privacy and downloads.
Recognizing the impact of recent changes to IRS Form 990, which now surveys whether an organization has written policies addressing whistle-blowing, conflicts of interest and document retention and destruction.
Changes to address the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and new laws legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.
Bene-Fit Solutions ‘HR guru’ Regina Dyerly, sHRBP, PHR, recognized it was difficult for companies – particularly those with limited HR resources – to address all issues.
“We will always endeavour to keep our clients informed of changes that are relevant to their business,” she explained, “but we understand and appreciate the challenges associated with keeping up to date across such a broad range of issues.
“It’s for this reason that we offer a service for clients where we review or develop employment policies and practices. This can be a helpful way of ensuring your company remains up to date.”
Regina can be reached on (719) 377-5101.