The next new healthcare plan

Between the Democratic sit-in on the floor of the House and England’s EU Brexit vote, it was easy to miss the Republicans rolling out their healthcare plan last week.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

So in case you missed it, we’ve put together a synopsis.

The most important thing to note is that the Republican plan is still a broad concept  – there is no pricetag and there are few details yet. But in essence, it eliminates Obamacare’s mandate requiring health insurance and the tax subsidies that help low income Americans pay for it. It eliminates the requirements that large employers provide health insurance and it eliminates the Medicaid expansion, as well as national standards for health plans. It also, of course, eliminates the federal health insurance exchange.

In short, it eliminates Obamacare.

The Republican plan instead offers a refundable tax credit for those who can’t get employer insurance. It expands private health savings accounts and it allows insurance companies to charge young people less and old people more.

It also funnels the most expensive patients into subsidized “high-risk pools,” which is the opposite of the Obamacare plan. Obamacare forces broad participation in the system, ensuring that most subscribers are relatively healthy and thus subsidize those who aren’t. The GOP plan would spend $25 billion over 10 years in federal funding for the sickest patients, keeping them out of the general insurance population to keep the costs down for everyone else.

And of course, the Republican plan would restructure Medicaid and Medicare, likely by making coverage cuts, although that detail isn’t clear yet either.

The GOP didn’t put a price tag on its plan as a whole, but it’s likely less than Bernie Sanders’ recently released plan, which nonpartisans have estimated will cost $33 trillion over the next decade.

Of course it’s all an exercise in academic debate at this point. Bernie isn’t going to win the Democratic nomination and the GOP healthcare plan isn’t going anywhere, especially now that Democrats have proved willing, at least for the time being, to steal the show and seize a debate.

It does, however, show that even with everything else that politicians have to fight over — often more publicly and spectacularly — healthcare remains at the heart of the economy, the political system and the national conversation.

 

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Posted in News and stories, Obamacare | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Scam alert – two-factor authentication

The bad guys are always looking for new ways to get your personal information.  We talk a lot about protecting the data on your computer.  Now we need to talk about your smart phone.  Just like it’s important to keep the updates on your computer up-to-date, you must also do the same for your smart phone.  I always research each update to make sure there are no major problems before installing them, but that’s just because I’m overly cautious.  Like their computer counterparts, these updates patch security holes as well as provide bug fixes.

Andrew Clarke

For those of you who use two-factor authentication, I was recently made aware of a new scam.  Let’s start with a little background about two-factor authentication.  Two-factor authentication is used to enhance access to your on-line accounts, whether that be banking or cloud access or what have you.  The way it works, generally, is that you log into your account with a username and password.  You are then prompted for an access code.  This access code is sometimes obtained using an app called an authenticator, but it could also come in the form of a text message.  Once you enter the code provided, you are given access to your account.  The reason this method of access is more secure is because it requires something that you know (your username and password) and something that you have in your possession (your smart phone).  That means that even if the bad guys get your username and password, they can’t access your account because they have no means of getting the access code unless they have your smart phone.

How the scam works:  The scammer sends you a text that looks like it comes from the company being accessed.  It claims suspicious activity and says your account will be closed if you don’t send back the verification code you will get in a separate text.  If you send back that code, you will be giving them the piece they are missing because they log into your account, which triggers the system to send you a text with the code.  Once you send them the code provided, they access your account and take it over.  The important thing to remember is that you will never randomly get a code via text.  You will only receive such a text if you are (or someone else is) actively logging in.  If you receive such a text, change your password immediately to prevent further attempts.

Social engineering is the number one way scammers gain access to your personal information and accounts.  Guard against it.  Never give out personal information like social security numbers or credit card numbers in response to a text.  This rule is similar to giving information to someone who randomly calls you.  You have no way of knowing who is really on the other end.

Don’t fall for the scare, act now, tactics of these criminals.  Think before you click!

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Posted in HIPAA, IT | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Does your email fit your reader?

I need to start this blog by admitting that I don’t like to write.  It is not one of those things that comes easily, and I spend a lot of time rereading or thinking of how to start what I am about to write. I really admire those who can sit down and come up with the perfect words quickly.

NEMT President Linda Allard

In this day and age where email is a major part of our lives, I spend many hours a day writing and responding to email.  Although I am truly a type “A” personality, this aspect of my job does slow me down.  When I need to put together very well thought out emails for a project, it can cause me to procrastinate as I know the process will be difficult. What I have learned by going to a lot of seminars and working on this skill is that my email needs to be about the reader.  Their inbox is full, so I need to make my email stand out.  The stage needs to be set for the recipient when they see the subject line and continue as they read.  My thoughts need to be clear and concise. My goal is to state in one sentence what the purpose of the email will be when I start.  This will help my reader to understand where I a going.  It also helps me to know where the email will be headed and to not travel out the door to my grandmother’s house (metaphorically speaking, of course).

We also need to learn to consider tone in our writing.  The tone of an email is not always how you write it but how it is read.  There is no way we can completely control that aspect, but when we write we can write with a respectful tone. These days a one-style-fits-all skill for writing does not work.  If your company culture is laid back and friendly and your emails are so task oriented that everyone feels offended when they read them it might be time to think about your writing style.  That doesn’t mean you need to tell stories about your dogs, but you could start with a friendlier greeting to soften things.  You may also have clients who you know are very busy and very task oriented, so asking them pleasantries might not be the correct approach.

If writing for you is difficult as it is for me, I challenge you to read your emails out loud after you write them for a day.  As you do, think about the reader and make sure your reader would feel it was for or about them in terms of tone.  Even if you are completely happy with your emails you might find that one typo that almost got away.

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American economy focuses on patching up people

In case you missed it, buried amid last week’s depressing employment figures was some major news in healthcare: for the first time in U.S. history, manufacturing isn’t the king – healthcare is.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Manufacturing, which has been the biggest industry since the nation’s founding, now drops to third place while healthcare comes in first. The healthcare sector has grown from 17 percent of all private jobs to 19 percent since 2009 while manufacturing has dropped from 18 percent to 16 percent.

So how big is the healthcare boom? In May, the healthcare sector added 46,000 jobs. The rest of the economy combined added only 38,000. That 38,000 is a pretty abysmal monthly total, but it highlights the comparable growth of healthcare as an industry.

The low jobs total for the economy as a whole comes with an added bonus for healthcare: that low 38,000 number means the Federal Reserve probably won’t raise borrowing rates yet. Since hospitals depend on debt financing to fund expansions, the low interest rate comes with huge financial benefits.

The May figures also include salary details, showing that healthcare and education (the two sectors are lumped together in federal labor reports) wages are still rising. The average health/education worker made $25.71 per hour in May — 49 cents more than a year ago and more than the national private sector average of $25.59.

If all of those numbers make your head spin, here’s the bottom line:

America has more people working in healthcare than in any other non-government job. They get paid more than the average and their ranks – and salaries — are growing.

So while the healthcare sector and its jobs are changing with technology, it’s still a good time to work for – or to look for work in – the industry. These days, Americans are focused less on making things and more on making people well.

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Posted in News and stories | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

No surprise – Healthcare costs climb

Bad news that comes as no surprise is still bad news.

The annual Milliman Medical Index report came out last week with numbers on the rising cost of healthcare, and the results are depressing, if not exactly shocking. In 2015, healthcare for a typical American family of four with employer-sponsored health insurance topped $24,600. this year, it’s $25,826. That’s triple what it was in 2001 and it’s about 30 percent of the median family income.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Of course families don’t pay all that out of pocket. Employers pick up about $14,800 of that, meaning each family pays about $10,000 in actual dollars for healthcare each year. The employer contribution has been decreasing steadily too, of course, so individual costs are rising twice: first as the cost of healthcare rises, and second, as employers pay less of it.

In my family of four, our healthcare costs now equal our mortgage payments.

This is somewhat unsettling, particularly when I think about my friends in the medical professions — they’re not exactly rolling in profits. I’d feel better if they were.

The good news — if there is any — is that this year saw a smaller increase than usual. It’s prescription drugs that are driving most of the increasing costs now — prescription drugs account for almost 17 percent of all healthcare costs.

The worse news is that all of those numbers only apply to people with employee-sponsored health insurance. Total healthcare spending is far higher because people over 65 — usually covered by Medicare rather than employee-sponsored insurance — have much higher healthcare costs.

Taking Americans as a whole, healthcare cost about $9,500 per person in 2014 — about $38,000 for a family of four — and it’s on the rise.

So what’s the answer? Until someone comes up with a better solution, I’m simply going to lower my own mental health costs by not reading any more healthcare reports.

You can read the full Milliman report at us.milliman.com/mmi/.

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