Saturday, November 05, 2005

UniCare Press Release 5/17/2005

UNICARE OFFERS BASICCHOICE BENEFIT PLANS
Programs are designed to give employers the means to provide affordable coverage options
CHICAGO, ILL. –UniCare is now offering BasicChoice, a new line of lower cost benefit plans designed to provide coverage for the most basic commonly used health care benefits. The plans should especially appeal to groups in the service industry that often have employees who are among the "working uninsured."
"These lower-cost benefits are not intended to replace the traditional employer-paid comprehensive health plans that employers already have in place," said David Fields, president and CEO of UniCare. "Rather, when large numbers of employees work in service-oriented positions and are not eligible for the company’s benefits program or can’t afford the company’s standard benefits program, then BasicChoice is the right choice for both the member and the employer. These programs can supplement existing options and give employers the means to provide an affordable option to employees who would not otherwise have health care coverage."
offers most of the commonly used health care benefits, such as:
Flexible medical plan options to include coverage for doctor visits and basic assistance with hospitalization expenses
Access to many of the leading physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals from the UniCare PPO network
Prescription drug coverage
The BasicChoice plan has three varying levels of coverage:
Level I Benefits Coverage is based on the UniCare indemnity product and includes outpatient benefits such as office visits, diagnostic and lab services, X-rays and emergency services, and inpatient benefits such as hospital stays and maternity. Annual benefit maximums for inpatient services are up to $15,000.
Level II Benefits Coverage utilizes UniCare’s Platinum Provider Network for increased savings when compared to standard PPO plans. With higher deductible options and some benefit modifications, BasicChoice Level II is an affordable option for those who prefer traditional PPO plans. Other benefits are:
Outpatient benefits such as office visits, diagnostic and lab services, X-rays, emergency room visits, well child care, immunizations, outpatient surgery
Preventive benefits such as mammogram screenings and pap smears
Inpatient benefits such as maternity and hospital stays
Physical therapy and occupational therapy, including chiropractic services
Annual maximum options range from $10,000 to $100,000
Utilization of PPO network
Level III Benefits Coverage resembles UniCare’s standard PPO benefit plans. Benefits include:
Wide range of deductible options
Annual benefit maximums ranging from $50,000 to $100,000
Outpatient benefits such as office visits, diagnostic and lab services, X-rays, emergency room visits, well child care, immunizations
Preventive benefits such as mammogram screenings and pap smears
Inpatient benefits such as maternity and hospital stays
Physical therapy and occupational therapy, including chiropractic services
Utilization of PPO network
The prescription drug benefit is one of the most important components of any benefits plan. With BasicChoice, the group can choose to provide one of three UniCare pharmacy benefit plans for its associates:
Members pay a monthly fee to participate in the UniCare Discount program. With this pharmacy benefits option, BasicChoice members utilize UniCare’s network discounts with thousands of pharmacies across the country.
The UniCare Generic Plan option covers generic prescription drugs only. Members pay a $10 copayment per generic prescription.
UniCare’s YourChoiceRX combines the convenience, quality service and cost-saving features of a conventional UniCare prescription drug plan with the concept of reference pricing. A pricing methodology generally used in the purchase of prescription drugs, reference pricing provides four different levels of pharmacy benefits and three levels of co-payments for this plan.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Aetna Press Release 10/20/2005

New National Survey Shows Lack Of Planning For Health Care Or Health Benefits In Retirement A healthy retirement - 401(k)s aren’t enough Aetna, the Financial Planning Association and Women’s Policy, Inc. encourage women to plan for a healthy and financially secure retirement

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2005 — Today at a Capitol Hill briefing, Aetna (NYSE: ΑET), the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and Women’s Policy, Inc. delivered a call to action about the importance of considering health and benefits needs in retirement, in response to findings from a new national survey of Americans ages 45 to 75. Of pre-retirees surveyed, nearly 20 percent have spent "no time" in the past year actively planning for retirement, over 30 percent don’t know what to anticipate for health care needs, and nearly 40 percent have spent less than an hour in the past year planning for health benefits in retirement. In light of these findings, Aetna and FPA have expanded the Plan for Your Health (www.PlanforYourHealth.com) public education campaign by launching a "Planning for a Healthy Retirement" section with tools, tips and content that provides a framework for planning a healthy and financially secure retirement. "Retirees who responded to the survey sent a very clear message to pre-retirees – save more than you think you’ll need for living expenses in retirement. Health care expenses are clearly a big part of that picture, since about a third of retirees are spending more than they thought they would for health care," said Aetna President Ronald A. Williams. "Good health is one of the most important investments for a secure retirement, and those who responded to our survey agreed. Aetna and FPA are in a unique position to put our knowledge to work for consumers, providing tools and information via the Plan for Your Health Web site that can help improve understanding of benefits and focus retirement planning on two important issues – health and finances," added Williams. The survey findings were released today at a Capitol Hill briefing hosted in cooperation with Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Co-Chairs, Women’s Health Task Force; Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.), Co-Chairs, Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues; and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Vice Chairs, Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Throughout the briefing, speakers underscored the need for greater health benefits literacy and tools to help consumers plan for a healthy and financially sound retirement. The survey included more than 1,000 adults ages 45 to 75. Respondents were asked to identify whether or not they were retired, and the opinions of retirees were contrasted with those of pre-retirees. Responses from men and women also were compared. According to the survey, when Americans plan for retirement they concentrate on finances, spending virtually no time on health benefits. This lack of attention may be because Americans are vastly underestimating health care expenses in retirement. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed expect to spend less than $300 a month on out-of-pocket costs and health care-related expenses – less than half of the $640 a month the average retiree actually spends. In a sign of changing times, the survey also revealed that the balance of responsibility for financial planning is shifting. Among those who were already retired, 65 percent of men took the lead in retirement planning, compared to 39 percent of women. In contrast, pre-retired men and women are equally responsible for planning, with 54 percent of men and 48 percent of women leading the charge. "While we were not surprised to hear that retirement planning falls below competing priorities such as planning for a child’s education, we are concerned that 63 percent of survey respondents say that ’people they know’ are confused about health benefits," said Dexanne B. Clohan, M.D., medical director, National Accounts, Aetna. Aetna and FPA created the Plan for Your Health public education program in 2004 to help consumers make smart financial and health benefits decisions during life’s pivotal moments. Now, the site has been enhanced with a section focused on retirement that features personalized tips, tools and articles developed to change the way consumers approach retirement planning:
- The Healthy Retirement Readiness Tool assesses where pre-retirees and retirees stand in the planning process, matching advice to their current level of retirement planning and offering realistic next steps. Users are directed to vignettes about people in similar life-stages, adding personal perspective to all levels of retirement planning. - New content covering long term care, Medicare changes, retirement Q&A and tips for a healthy retirement have been added to the site. "Men and women who are not yet retired agree that the most challenging thing about planning for retirement is their uncertainty about how much money they will need," said Jonathan Guyton, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional1, FPA member and a specialist in retirement planning. "This uncertainty may be paralyzing pre-retirees from planning because 48 percent say they have not started or have planned minimally. Whether you’re 30 or 60 years old, and whether you’ve planned a little or a lot, the ’Healthy Retirement Readiness Tool’ will help guide you through the process." Additional Survey Findings- A large majority of pre-retirees and retirees expect to pay for prescription drugs (80 percent) and doctor’s visits (84 percent) in retirement. Some even anticipate costs related to alternative medicine (29 percent) and cosmetic surgery (five percent), a snapshot of consumers’ health care preferences today. - Although 74 percent of respondents said they factored Social Security and Medicare benefits in their retirement plan, 77 percent are concerned about the financial issues facing these programs. Women are more concerned than men about the financial issues facing Medicare and Social Security. -Thirty-one percent of pre-retirees would rather clean their bathrooms or pay bills than plan for retirement. - Thirty-six percent of pre-retirees say they spent more time on home improvements than they did planning for retirement in the past year. - Eighty-three percent of those surveyed could not correctly identify Medicare Part D, which provides Medicare beneficiaries with coverage for their prescription drug costs beginning January 1, 2006. -Fifty-three percent of Americans surveyed would choose health benefits, if they had a choice between receiving health benefits (paid for to supplement Medicare) or a pension in retirement.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Blue Cross Blue Shield Press Release 9/28/2005

(WASHINGTON – September 28, 2005) – Consumers enrolled in health savings account (HSA)-eligible high deductible health plans are satisfied across a number of fronts, according to a new survey gauging consumer perceptions of consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) released today by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) at a National Press Club forum in Washington, D.C. The forum is the third in a series sponsored by BCBSA focused on the consumer’s growing role in healthcare.

The survey found that 68 percent of HSA-eligible enrollees are satisfied with the performance of their insurer, 71 percent are satisfied with access to preventive care and wellness services, and 69 percent are satisfied with the health benefits information offered by their insurer. These satisfaction levels compare favorably to those seen in the survey from individuals with traditional insurance. In addition, the survey found that 37 percent of HSA-eligible enrollees – in contrast to 15 percent of individuals with traditional insurance – now feel more in charge of their healthcare over the past year.

“Although HSA products have been available for a relatively short period of time, we are extremely encouraged by the high rate of consumer satisfaction as shown in our new survey,” said Maureen Sullivan, senior vice president, Strategic Services, BCBSA. “We are hopeful that this current level of satisfaction will continue as more products come online and familiarity grows.”

Sixty-five percent of HSA-eligible enrollees who purchase coverage directly and 61 percent with employer-sponsored coverage said they were likely to recommend similar products to others.

The web-based survey conducted this past August by Knowledge Networks for BCBSA queried nearly 3,000 consumers enrolled in Blue Cross and Blue Shield and non-Blue consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) as well as traditional forms of insurance. The survey looked at several areas, including: factors influencing selection, expectations, satisfaction, likelihood of renewal, healthcare utilization, and changes in behavior.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are currently offering or expect to offer HSA-compatible high-deductible health plans in all 50 states by 2006. HSAs were created as part of the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003.

The survey found that HSA-eligible enrollees are of all ages and of no different health status than people enrolled in traditional coverage. "This survey finding dispels the myth that HSAs are only for the young and healthy,” said Sullivan. “In addition, we are also bolstered by the finding that the number of previously uninsured currently enrolled in a HSA-eligible product is double that of enrollees in traditional insurance products (12 percent to 6 percent).”

HSA-eligible enrollees are more likely to access information and services available to assist them in decision making than individuals with traditional insurance, according to the survey. Thirty-three percent of these individuals have accessed information on drug costs compared to 18 percent of non-CDHP enrollees. In addition, HSA-eligible enrollees are far more likely to use wellness programs and online tools to track costs than non-CDHP enrollees.

“The success of HSAs and other consumer-directed health plans is predicated on consumers pursuing information and applying that knowledge to their healthcare decisions. The survey shows that consumers enrolled in HSAs are beginning to do just that,” said Sullivan.

Across the board, individuals enrolled in HSAs or traditional insurance were just as likely to request generic drugs, decide not to go to a doctor, delay seeing a doctor or a medical procedure, delay or not fill a prescription, or take a lower than recommended dose of a prescribed drug.