While it will take support from Republicans and Democrats to fully replace Obamacare, a simple majority of Republican senators could repeal parts of the law through reconciliation. Here are just a few:
- The individual and employer mandates can be reduced to zero
- The Cadillac tax, currently delayed to 2020, could be repealed
- Individual subsidies to purchase exchange coverage can be reduced to zero
Another welcome step requiring only a simple majority in the Senate would be increasing the limits on FSA and HSA contributions.
In a prior newsletter, we reported on the City of Philadelphia’s intentions to tax sugary and sweetened drinks. While the beverage industry and retailers sued saying the tax is unconstitutional, a judge recently dismissed the legal effort, clearing the way for the 15 cent per ounce tax to take effect January 1, 2017.
While Philadelphia will become the first major U.S. city to pass such a tax, several other governmental entities, including the City of San Francisco and Cook County, Illinois, are taking similar action. In Cook County, which includes the City of Chicago, the tax will go into effect on July 1, 2017 and will add 68 cents to the cost of a 2-liter bottle of soda and a penny per ounce to all sugary fountain drinks.
One telehealth company recently announced a partnership enabling patients to imitate an in-office visit and examine the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, throat and more at home and share the exam prior to, or during, a telehealth visit. These steps are expected to help doctors make diagnoses with the same confidence as an in-person visit.
After numerous articles advocating technology and social media as the only sources of information valued by young workers, a recent study by MetLife has shown that nearly two-thirds of millennials favored a one-on-one discussion with a benefits specialist when trying to understand their employee benefits.
Believe it or not, millennials even lead other generations in consulting with family and friends on benefit-related issues, showing that they value the personal experience when it comes to complex matters. Because they have become accustomed to the way technology streamlines information, they are looking for the facts without a lot of fluff. Nonetheless, one-on-one consultations and phone conversations are proving to be effective in giving young people the personalized information they need to understand their healthcare benefits and make informed decisions.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that nearly 20% of mid-sized employers made the jump to self-insurance from 2013 to 2015. A major attraction is the availability of data and analytics, enabling the employer to learn how healthcare dollars are being spent. A growing number of employers are using this data to incentivize employees who lower claim costs by choosing more efficient hospitals or free standing imaging centers when tests such as an MRI are needed.
Objects in your home may not be as clean as they appear. In fact, germs that cause disease are found all over household items. Here are the items found to have the highest germ counts (from least to most dirty):
9. Stove knobs
8. Kitchen counters
7. Pet toys
6. Bathroom faucet handles
5. Coffee makers
4. Pet bowls
3. Toothbrush holders
2. Kitchen sinks
1. Dish sponges and dishcloths
The kitchen is the biggest area of concern because of dirty crevices and the fact that many foods can hold highly contagious germs. But, bathrooms should still be paid attention to. Using over-the-counter cleaning products that contain bleach can be most effective and should be used multiple times per week.
The U.S. healthcare system is changing as many consumers are trying to be proactive, make financially smart and healthy choices and find more ways to get a better handle on costs. Taking charge of your health and saving money on medical expenses can truly begin with knowing how to talk to your doctors and medical providers. Here are tips to maximize communication:
- Write down the top problems you are experiencing to help your doctor focus on what to treat first.
- Bring a list of all current prescription medications as well as over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements and include dosage and how often you take them.
- Keep a handy record of recent test results, lab reports, surgeries and other relevant health information.
Costs should also be a part of every conversation and patients should be not be afraid to bring up the subject. While doctors are typically not afraid to discuss costs, they simply may not know exact costs or projected out-of-pocket expenses.
Another area of concern is the rising cost of prescription medications. If your doctor does not bring up a generic alternative, then you should. Here are ways to save on prescriptions:
- Skip chain drugstores and consider shopping at a warehouse store for lower prices.
- Go local to your neighborhood pharmacist and ask them to beat a competitor’s price.
- Know that some chain and big-box stores offer common generics at low prices for people who pay out-of-pocket and not with their insurance.
- Ask your pharmacist if any discounts, programs, cards or coupons could make your price lower.
- For long-term drugs, consider buying a three-month supply so you pay one co-pay rather than three.
Remember that walk-in clinics are suitable for common procedures like flu shots, sports physicals and minor injuries and they are always more cost efficient than emergency rooms. Staying healthy is still the optimal way to save money on healthcare, so take time for your own health. Know your blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol and family medical history and always make efforts to control weight.