With health care costs soaring through the roof, the cost of health insurance premiums are increasing as well. Health insurance is a necessity, however, when you consider the costs of one visit to the emergency room, surgery to set a broken bone, scans, lab and other costs. When your budget is limited, how can you keep the costs of your health insurance premiums down? There are several steps you can take to reduce your health insurance costs and still maintain adequate medical coverage when you need it.First step is to consider what health insurance options you have. Does your employer offer a group medical benefit? Many employers (and/or labor unions) offer health benefits to full-time employees. Group health insurance is usually the cheapest way to get medical coverage; an employer can negotiate with health insurance companies to get a group health plan at cheaper rates. In addition, many employers will pay part of the premium, reducing your health insurance cost even further. Another consideration is whether your spouse has health coverage available through their employer? If so, compare your health benefits plan to that of your spouse, and decide which health plan is the better buy. It may be possible to have one spouse carry family health insurance coverage and the other drop their health benefits. Many employers have multiple health insurance options, so review these plans as well. Choose the health plan that best meets your needs at the cheapest rate.If no health insurance coverage is available through your employer, there are other ways to obtain health insurance coverage. Individual and family private health insurance policies are available. Shop and compare benefits and premiums from each health insurance plan. If you and your family are generally healthy, the new Health Savings Account (HSA) may be worth consideration. The HSA is an account that allows you to save tax-free dollars for your medical/health expenses. Similar to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you are limited in the amount that you are allowed to contribute each year; however, with the HSA, withdrawals for health expenses are not penalized, and no tax is paid on the withdrawal. When paired with a health insurance policy that has high deductibles and low rates, the HSA may be ideal for you. Save money in the HSA for deductibles and co-pays, and you’re set.For those over 65 or permanently disabled, Medicare is available through the federal government. The original Medicare is an 80/20 plan (they pay 80% of eligible expenses and the insured pays 20%) with an annual deductible and a monthly premium. Supplemental health plans are available to cover this deductible and co-pay. These supplemental health plans are usually private and the insured pays a premium. In addition to the original Medicare plan, there are Medicare HMOs. In these Medicare HMO health plans, the Medicare premium is paid to an HMO to provide benefits to the insured. HMO plans are more restrictive in that patients must get care through a network provider, but often these plans cover more prescription drugs and preventive care than original Medicare does.Recently some employers have offered lower premiums to employees who do not smoke cigarettes. This is currently a controversial topic for some, but it certainly may begin a trend. In the future, employers and their health insurance providers could offer reduced premiums for employees who maintain normal weight, exercise regularly, and receive certain wellness benefits. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle lowers the risk to the health insurance company that they will be paying big bucks in health care down the road. And health insurance, as any other insurance, is all about risk.Bottom line: going without health insurance coverage is a big risk for you. Find health coverage that you can afford just in case Murphy comes knocking at your door!
Consumer Driven Group Health Plans (CDHPs): How and Why They Miss the Target
by Michael ChapmanThe rising expense of group health insurance is a big issue for most small businesses businesses (businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Companies of this size represent 95% of all businesses in the US.) The percent of small businesses offering group health insurance plans has fallen steadily. Today half of small businesses offer group health insurance plan for their employees, down from 70% a decade ago.The only effective way that a company can reduce the cost of group medical insurance is if their employees have fewer medical insurance claims. This can lead to a reduction in the overall increase in the cost of group health insurance for the company the following year, when the company signs a contract at new rates for the next year. While there may not be a cost reduction, fewer claims should mean a lower than normal premium increase.”Consumer driven group health plans” are plans that pass on more cost to the employees in the form of higher deductibles and higher or no prescription or doctor visit co-pays, and “incentives” to reward employees for reducing their medical insurance claims. These incentives include monetary and tax incentives approved by the IRS that reward the employee for controlling the cost of their medical claims.The idea is that if more of the health care costs are shifted to the employee, and if the employee makes fewer medical claims, they are rewarded with tax-favored savings. The thinking is that if the employee is a “good consumer,” they will find ways to keep more of their tax-favored savings that they can use in future years rather than use it for health care.Consumer driven group health plans couple a high deductible health plan with one or more of the following types of IRS approved programs: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), and Medical Expense Reimbursement Plans (MERPS).Companies that select consumer driven group health plans (CDHPs) generally see a significant, but moderate and often short term, reduction in the inflationary increases in group medical insurance expenses. However, we now believe that CDHP advocates are making the wrong argument, and are missing the point.While CDHP advocates might be winning a lower rate increase for a year, they are losing the war on affordable health care and health insurance, and are only motivating the proponents of universal health care and nationalized health insurance to work harder to get their candidates elected in 2008.We feel that consumer driven group health plans do not do enough to control the cost of group health insurance. Even if company receives a premium group health insurance premium increase of 7% instead of 15%, that is still a doubling in rates by the year 2015. Clearly, that is too much.We feel that the basic premise of CDHPs is wrong. The challenge is not to make the employees pay more for group health insurance, and then reward them for shopping for less expensive health care and avoiding medical claims. CDHPs represent short-sighted thinking and bandaid fix for group health insurance.We feel that the only way to achieve a fundamental change in the cost of employee group health insurance is to make employees accountable for maintaining healthy lifestyles. Fully 75% of all diseases in the US are preventable. Group health insurance plans that reward employees for preventing diseases represents could truly reduce health care expenses for employers and employees alike.Employers should be able to hold their employees accountable for their own lifestyles. A group health insurance plan that rewards tobacco-free, obesity-free living, and rewards employees and dependents for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle is the goal.With this type of plan, employees could avoid or minimize the chance of their family’s suffering and the cost of diseases such as diabetes, diseases of the heart and circulatory system, stroke, and cancer-related diseases. Plus, employers would benefit from a true systemic reduction in medical insurance expenses, and reduce lost time productivity and wages due to sickness.Employees who choose a healthy lifestyle would receive tax-favored incentives for losing weight for stopping use of tobacco, etc. Those incentives would effectively lower the cost of the employee’s out of pocket medical expenses to below what they would otherwise spend.Those employees who choose not to live healthy lifestyles would not reap the rewards and incentives that the employer’s plan offers, and would pay more for their health care. Or they could choose to seek employment elsewhere with a company or organization that offers a group health insurance plan that does not reward healthy employees with lower cost health insurance and incentives for a healthy lifestyle.This simple concept, for employers to reward employees who choose to live healthy lives with lower health care expenses, represents a major departure from the current CDHP movement. Forward-thinking CEOs can now have a major impact on permanently reducing the cost of group health insurance, can improve their company’s bottom line, and can play a major positive role in improving the lives of their employees and their families.We will elaborate on this concept in future articles and will show employers how step by step how they can implement employee wellness as a key driver in their company’s employee benefits and human resources plan. Individuals interested are encouraged to contact for more information.
Health is often pictured out as taking supplements and doing workouts. So health investments are usually channeled to them. However, physical condition and appearance are just one aspect of it. Other equally pressing health concerns should be given weight. Health that works is holistic.Looking Good But SickTo some extent, muscle workouts fight off stress. Especially when one’s environment and life situation are favorable. But in another sense, pumping iron and treadmills alone are no match to the ill effects of massive distress when the other aspects of holistic health are ignored. Physical workouts can sometimes even do more harm than good when other holistic health factors are not balanced. There are bodybuilders who register dismally during blood chemistry tests due mostly to over-stress.Other Aspects of Holistic Health1. Mental health. Mental stress alone is deadly. What more when partnered with emotional stress? Mental stress triggers chemical reactions that upset natural functions in our body systems, like the immune system. Thus, people with mental stress have their immune defenses down and easily get sick.Worse, it can lead to overeating that, if unchecked, may cause the blood pressure to abnormally increase. Combine this with a stressful workout and the effect can be lethal. However, with the right attitude and program, workouts can stave off mental stress. Health that works gives due credence to mental strength.2. Emotional health. Once the emotions take over a person, overeating may set in. Among the tough enemies of fitness is overeating, and among the most powerful fuel of overeating is emotional distress. A single miscalculated weight gain can sometimes ruin an entire slimming program and negate whatever gains one may have.Lots of body builders can’t figure out their inability to reduce weight or flabby fat despite their ardent workouts. It is due to their non-holistic approach to fitness. They workout at the gym but never fix their emotional stress. Few realize this, but a broken marriage or family, for instance, has dire effects in overall health. Holistic health that works keeps emotions under control.3. Financial health. The need to be financially able cannot be overstressed. Sustained quality health entails lots of expenses, simply put. Healthy food doesn’t come cheap, especially organic ones. All-natural health supplements cost a fortune when taken religiously. And they have to be taken thus to get their full benefits. Taking them now and then will not work. Even juicing alone costs plenty.Furthermore, regular executive check ups are a must for both men and women. Thus, added income generation is crucial to support a quality program for health that works and lasts a lifetime. Moreover, a lack in the family income is another source of distress that can trigger harmful chemical reactions in the body.4. Spiritual health. This is not about having a religion. It is about connecting to a higher spiritual Source to have peace within oneself. You can have all the religion you want and yet remain spiritually disquieted. The spiritual is really intertwined with the mental and emotional. The three cannot be separated in holistic health. Health that works is holistic.Some attain gratification in this area by being one with nature. Some by immersing in mystical Eastern cultures. Generally, it is intimacy with God taken to a subliminal level that goes beyond religious rituals and boundaries. Spiritual health explains why tai-chi practitioners possess an incredible source of energy and power which are beyond scientific explanation. God-fearing men in the bible retained excellent health even in ripe old ages. Inner tranquility and composure begets a resilient spirit.5. Social health. Even powerful animals, like lions, weaken when segregated from their kind. Fellowship is not only inherent in mankind; it is crucial for survival. Mental, emotional and spiritual sanity are hinged on a vigorous social life. Financial triumph is equally dependent on a network of contacts.Hence, health that works is holistic. It invests equal time, effort, and resources on all its aspects.