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Tag >> healthcare
A growing number of companies think it is very important that their employees be healthy and plan to do something about this.
A new study from Towers Watson found that three out of four companies said workforce health and promoting health and well-being will be more of a priority this year and next. In addition, 87 percent said it will be a higher priority over the next two to four years.
Who would have thought?
It looks like the federal government is doing a better job of holding down health care costs than the private sector.
California last week became the first state to pass legislation creating a health insurance exchange as mandated under the new federal health reform law. Some states, like New York, have only begun to pay lip service toward implementing health reform, while others, like Missouri, are still fighting the federal law's legality.
But the legislation is nonetheless expected to serve as a model if it is signed into law as expected.
Employers, here we go again: as long as you offer employees tax-free health care benefits, you will always have someone calling for an end to this lucrative tax break.
This time it's the International Monetary Fund. In a report last week on the U.S. economy, debt and unemployment, the IMF expressed overall concern about the challenge of bringing U.S. debt "to more sustainable levels without jeopardizing the recovery."
Since they were introduced in 2003, the use of high deductible health insurance plans with health savings accounts have grown steadily more popular among employers who believe that making employees responsible for upfront costs will make them thriftier health care consumers.
Before there was national health reform, there was San Francisco health reform. The Golden Gate city required employers to provide some form of health insurance or face fines and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association objected and sued.
The restaurant association has been largely unsuccessful in challenging the law but they have persisted. They have argued that federal ERISA law allowing multistate employers to skirt local laws concerning benefits trumps Healthy San Francisco.
There next and final recourse is to take it before the Supreme Court, something the Obama administration has decided to weigh in on. A couple weeks ago, the administration filed a brief saying the Supremes should not take up the case. This was of course a different tack than George Bush, whose solicitor argued that the Supreme Court should overturn the ordinance.
But the Obama administration has a much different stake in the outcome of this case. Their argument is that national health reform makes a law like Health San Francisco, passed in 2006, obsolete. The issues presented in the case-that local governments have the ability to require employers to offer insurance-are unlikely to come to the fore considering federal law now requires some form of employer participation in health care.
The subtext of this brief though is much bigger. If the court did take up the case and ruled against the city and in favor of the employer group, it would no doubt fan the flames of opposition to national health reform. Though the Supremes may rule on much narrower grounds, it could galvanize legal opposition to national health reform law. Already, there is a movement afoot in some states to declare federal reform illegal. If the Supreme Court takes up this case it could become symbolic of a larger referendum on health reform.
The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.
The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven't received anything but believe your company may qualify, here's what you should know:
One of the biggest winners under the health care reform law are wellness providers. Employers generally fear the new health care reform law will increase their health costs and, according to a new survey, that is one reason why many are planning to invest more in keeping employees healthy.
There's also another reason. The new law allows employers to increase the amount of money they can use to get people to comply with wellness programs and health goals. Previously, rewards offered to people who enroll in a weight-loss program, for example, could not total more than 20 percent of the person's premium, according to this primer by the Department of Labor. Under the new law, the threshold is now 30 percent. That takes effect in 2014.
When the Secretary of Defense talks, people listen.
Even more so when the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, talks about reducing noncombat spending and singles out health care costs as a major target of reform as he did Saturday during a speech at the Eisenhower Library Saturday in Abilene, Kansas.
When the largest recipient of federal funding is joining other major employers in a call to reduce health care costs you know the issue has fully permeated society.
We are irrational. We don't act in our best interest, especially if we can't enjoy the fruit of our labor immediately.
Employers have for some years accepted this premise and have helped employees act in their own best interest. They automatically enroll people in 401(k) plans to help them save for retirement. If a worker doesn't sign up for health benefits, they are often enrolled in a plan.
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