pig herds

ON WEDNESDAY LAST week, the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council revealed that pig herds in the United States receive almost as many antibiotics as people in this country do. That’s bad news, especially since most of the pigs receiving antibiotics aren’t sick, but instead are getting the drugs to prevent infections in intensive farming. Those drugs don’t keep the US pig herd healthy—major diseases have increased year over year since 2000—and all those antibiotics are increasing the amount of drug-resistant bacteria that arise on pig farms and that are routinely found on meat.

None of that is good news. But there’s a second story hidden in the NRDC report that is worse: The advocacy organization had to jump over hurdles to get the data to explain the effects of that drug use. Even in the era of Big Data, the information we‘re allowed to have about how antibiotics are used in US animals is limited, incomplete, and hostage to commercial interests—all of which keeps Americans from fully understanding how bad raising practices put our health at risk.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Other nations track and report agricultural antibiotic use, livestock diseases and human health impacts—not only in granular detail, but in unified data sets that make it easy to see how what’s happening on farms affects the wider world.

In the Netherlands, for instance, paired sets of data—Nethmap for human antibiotic use and resistance, MARAN for livestock (it stands for Monitoring of Antimicrobial Resistance and Antibiotic Usage in Animals in the Netherlands) are released in a single document every year by the Ministries of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. (Those are the equivalent, allowing for differences in government structure, of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA.)

The Dutch data sets are assembled with the participation of physicians, pharmacists, and veterinarians, and they are a marvel of completeness. They are remarkably real-time, fine-grained, and coherent across categories—so much that, in the wake of a 2005 European Union ban on one type of farm antibiotic use, the Dutch data could show that drug-resistant infections linked to food didn’t drop as expected. That gave the government the proof it needed to recruit farmers into voluntary cuts in farm drug use. Antibiotic use dropped 60 percent in three years—and that time, they saw a drop in human infections.

Contrast that to the United States, where human prescription statistics are compiled and sold by a private company, Quintiles IMS, formerly IMS Health. (NRDC couldn’t afford to buy this data for its report; the group had to beg help from a deeper-pocketed think tank.) Animal-drug sales, but not usage, are tendered by veterinary-drug manufacturers to the FDA. Documenting where resistance is occurring is even more complicated: That is a joint project of the USDA, FDA, and CDC—but the agencies don’t report all their results in a single document or at the same time.

In the current political moment, perhaps it’s no surprise that the companies that make and sell antibiotics play a much larger role in the US surveillance system than they do in the Netherlands or across the European Union. For a glimpse of how uninformative American antibiotic surveillance is, look at how animal-antibiotic data comes to be.

Compiling and releasing those stats is governed by a law called the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA). The law’s origin was a slightly shady deal done between the FDA and pharma companies back in 2003: The companies were so impatient with the slow pace of new-drug approvals that they volunteered to pay a “user fee” that would allow the agency to hire more staff and process paperwork faster.

In ADUFA’s first years, drug companies paid the FDA $43 million, practically guaranteeing the act’s re-approval when it came up for a 5-year re-authorization. Sensing some leverage, members of Congress who wanted more transparency around farm antibiotic use shoehorned into the law a requirement that any antibiotics manufacturer that wanted new drugs approved would have to give up some agricultural sales data in exchange. That led to the first “ADUFA Report” (technically the “Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals”) in 2009. It has been published every year, more or less, ever since.

But the statistics included in the report have been incomplete at best. The first ADUFA report, which recorded 28.8 million pounds of antibiotics sold for farm use, was only four pages long and contained just a single table. (It’s up to 67 pages and 28 tables and figures now.) The ways that drugs are dispensed on farms only began to be described a few years ago, and the descriptions don’t exactly match scientific understanding of how resistance emerges from farms. David Wallinga, a physician and senior health officer at NRDC, points out, the breakdown of how the drugs are used in different livestock species was only divulged in last year’s report, which covered 2016.

The biggest problem, though, is that ADUFA isn’t considered an obligation owed to public health, as antibiotic data is in Europe. Instead, it’s a political football. The law is up for reauthorization again this year, and since March, versions have been bouncing between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Some have been what legislative wonks call a “clean bill,” a strict reproduction of the text from the last round. But others have been lavishly tinkered with: one provision allowed the use of animal drugs, for up to five years, under “conditional approvals”—that is, without companies having to reveal any data showing their drugs are effective.

The newest version of ADUFA isn’t final yet; versions that separately passed the House and Senate will have to be reconciled and then voted on again. Advocacy organizations who have been monitoring the maneuvers contained in the various amendments are already exhausted—not just by the argumentation, but by the persistent sense that farm antibiotic misuse isn’t anyone’s priority other than theirs.

“The lack of data is a problem because we know that antibiotics are vastly misused in agriculture, but we need more information on exactly how they are used to put in place the best stewardship practices possible,” says Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the organization US PIRG.“The less clear that data is, the harder time public health advocates and elected officials will have in creating best practices.”

If American farm and human antibiotic data were complete, up to date, and open-access, we’d be able to easily draw the kinds of comparisons that the NRDC authors needed and that Europe takes for granted. Robust public health ought to be the entitlement of every American. It’s incongruous that the data that could help achieve it isn’t free to all.

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Five ways to affordable dental care

Good personal hygiene and educating yourself on the dental industry will save you money over and over again when it comes to dental care.

See our FIVE tips on how to save money on your teeth!

The expense of health care does not end with your physician and can be overwhelming at the dentist. A twice-annual cleaning and exam is along with regular flossing and brushing are some ways to keep your dental bill low. Even the most devoted brushers and flossers can rack up dental bills for minor and major services.

How do you stay on top of it good dental hygiene without going broke?

Five ways to save on dental care:

1. Discounts and Deals

Dentists often advertise some super deals through social buying sites. On occasion a mail out, local “shopper”  or newspapers, and even the ubiquitous blue envelope from Valpak will have dental deals. Let me bear witness to deals that do exist: While living in Seattle, I redeemed a Valpak coupon that helped me pay just $29 for cleaning, X-rays and a free teeth-whitening kit custom-made for me in the office.

Things to remember:

  • Read all the fine print. Be sure to review the expiration date. If you look to redeem some deals post expiration date you will still be able to redeem the coupon value but the total bill will be much higher.
  • Consider if it is for a new customer. The second visit may not be worth the savings from the first.
  • Always get your initial exam with the special deal and any other visits or services compare to other providers. Don’t forget to get the total cost of the recommended treatment with the care plan.
  • Ask friends and co-workers for referrals. In some cases savings can be had from the provider when you are a referral or refer a friend.

2.Extra procedures

List of procedures to think twice about:

  • Teeth Whitning
  • Amalgam filling replacement
  • X rays
  • Precautionary Removal
  • Wisdom Teeth
  • TMJ Disorder

3. Second Opinions

Seeking dental care is hard enough in itself but when the exam comes back requiring major dental work one must ask themselves if the investment and care are worth the total cost and what other options are out there?

In the case you have an long term relationship with your dentist and are completely comfortable with the care, a second opinion wouldn’t and shouldn’t matter to your provider. The care plan will be the same. In the case you may have a questionable provider and cannot fully grasp the list of “required” work you have been diagnosed with, get a second opinion. It could save you a considerable amount of money.

4. Seek out free or low-cost options

Don’t have dental insurance? Look for discount dental plans and discount plans in one place with  Dental for Everyone. You can review the providers in your area by clicking here.  An annual membership fee qualifies you for discounts of up to 60 percent from a group of dentists who have agreed to lower rates. For more information on receiving a personalized analysis on dental insurance for your area contact us.

Other possibilities that could be options. Many options are based on income or will have an open door appointment schedule making it hard to get work done that requires a block of time.

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Designed for families who don’t qualify for Medicaid assistance but can’t afford private insurance, CHIP dental coverage is good for children up to age 19. Coverage varies from state to state. To find out more, visit the CHIP website.
  • Clinical trials: According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, you may qualify for studies that include your specific dental situation. This means free or low-cost care. To learn more, visit the NIDCR website and click on “Clinical Trials.”
  • Dental schools: The American Dental Association has a list of such schools; maybe you’re lucky enough to live near one. Don’t worry, dental students’ work is supervised.
  • Dental hygiene schools: You may be able to get low-cost cleanings at some dental hygiene schools. Check the American Dental Hygienists’ Association website to find the nearest school.
  • Federally funded health centers: These operate on a sliding-scale basis. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website has a health care finder tool.
  • Medicaid: Another state-run program that may cover dental benefits for low-income residents. Visit the website to learn about benefits in your state.

5. Research your dental charges

Unlike a medical clinic many dentist’s are sole proprietors or in a partnership making it more of an option to talk to them about pricing. Question your care. Look for ways to save money. Perhaps you can save some money by combining visits, for example a filling and a cleaning or some combination. It extends the appointment time but may save a clinic charge for each visit.

Understand Short Term Health Care by Julia Stanek

Short Term Medical


Choosing the right health plan is an important decision. While traditional health plans may be a good fit for some, one may find the traditional health plan is either more comprehensive than needed, not tailored enough to specific healthcare needs, or much too expensive. A short-term health plan is an important option to consider for those who need coverage but cannot justify purchasing a traditional plan or for those who find themselves uninsured due to life circumstances. As you reflect on your own healthcare needs, decide what coverage options might benefit you the most and which plan features will improve your healthcare experience.

Choosing a Short-Term Health Plan

Who can benefit from a short-term health plan? Why might one consider looking into investing in a short-term health plan? We all have different healthcare needs and there are many reasons short-term medical coverage may be right for you. Anyone who is not currently covered under a traditional health plan can benefit from a nontraditional short-term plan. Recent graduates and adult children who are no longer covered under a parent’s plan can use a short-term plan as a bridge to coverage under a future employer or while considering long-term healthcare options. Families and individuals who missed the open enrollment period have the option of enrolling in back-to-back coverage terms offered by Pivot Health. Those who are unemployed or uninsured but need medical coverage can benefit from the wide range of options short-term health plans offer, allowing you to tailor your health plan to your healthcare needs as well as your financial needs.


Considering Your Options

Short-term medical plans can last up to 90 days under one certificate of insurance- however, Pivot Health offers the opportunity to apply for up to four back-to-back certificates. This option may be advantageous to those anticipating specific healthcare needs, and while out-of-pocket responsibilities and your deductible start over with each ensuing coverage term, any medical conditions that arise and were initially covered will continue to be covered under your new certificates. Coverage may be available within 24 hours of applying or you may choose a start date within 60 days of the first application. You may choose a monthly payment option or to save money by pre-paying for the entire length of coverage. Pivot Health also offers a range of deductibles and coinsurance options, allowing you to customize your health plan.


Customize Your Health Plan

Important plan features include doctor visit copays and prescription coverage. Deductible options range from $1,000 to $10,000 and coinsurance may be selected at 20% or 30%- this means once you have met your deductible, insurance pays 80% of covered medical expenses while you are responsible for 20% up to the out-of-pocket limit. Separate prescription drug deductible options are available for those who require consistent prescriptions and maximum out-of-pocket costs are as low as $3,000 per person per coverage period. Conveniently, you have the freedom to choose from any doctor or hospital, as there are no network restrictions. Pivot Health also provides access to 24/7 telemedicine, making healthcare easy and accessible. In addition to these features, coverage includes several non-insurance benefits such as $49 doctor consultations available 24/7, discounted eye exams, lenses, frames and contacts, and up to 70% savings on prescription drugs.


Short-term health plans can be extremely useful for those uninsured and in need of coverage. With a wide range of coverage options and benefits and short-term financial commitment, these plans allow for personalized healthcare. Ultimately, making an informed decision is critical and can ease the uncertainty and stress of choosing the plan that’s right for you.

Is Short-term health care right for you? Review your options by clicking here. Looking to add Short Term Medical health care into your portfolio of products you sell? Contact us now. info@capital-benefits.com.

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Unlikely lawsuit to deem ACA Unconstitutional

The Department of Justice (DOJ) argued in court Thursday that key parts of ObamaCare are now unconstitutional, siding in large part with a conservative challenge to the law.

The move is a break from the normal practice of the DOJ to defend federal laws when they are challenged in court. Under President Trump, the department has opted not to defend a law that it strongly opposes.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that the DOJ has a “longstanding tradition” of defending federal laws, but argued that this is “a rare case where the proper course is to forgo defense” of the law.

The lawsuit in question was filed in February by Texas and 19 other GOP-led states, arguing that ObamaCare is unconstitutional and should be overturned.

Legal experts are deeply skeptical the challenge can succeed, and 17 Democratic-led states have already intervened to defend the law in the absence of DOJ action.

The DOJ argues that ObamaCare’s protections against people with pre-existing conditions being denied coverage or charged more should be invalidated, maintaining that the individual mandate that people have insurance or face a tax penalty is now unconstitutional.

The conservative states and DOJ point to the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that upheld ObamaCare’s individual mandate under Congress’s taxing power. Now that Congress has repealed the mandate penalty as part of last year’s tax bill – while technically keeping the mandate itself in place – they argue the mandate is no longer a tax and is now invalid.

They also argue that the key pre-existing condition protections cannot be separated from the mandate and should be invalidated. The DOJ argues the remainder of the law can stay.

The chances for that argument succeeding are viewed with deep skepticism by legal experts, in part because Congress itself indicated that the rest of ObamaCare could still stand without the mandate when it moved to repeal the tax penalty last year.

The case is currently before a federal district court judge in Texas, Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

Some supporters of ObamaCare view the DOJ’s move more as a damaging break from precedent rather than an actual serious legal threat to ObamaCare, since the lawsuit is unlikely to succeed.

Previous administrations have made their own break from precedent. In 2011, for example, President Obama’s Justice Department broke precedent by declining to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

10 Life Situations When Short Term Health Insurance is an Excellent Option for Consumers

Capital Benefits Group is now offering a popular alternative to ACA plans!


Short Term Medical with Capital Benefits Group

These alternative plans could help over 8 million consumers keep insurance during times of transition.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.April 5, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Pivot Health, a leading provider and manager of specialty health insurance products, defined 10 ways short term health plans can benefit consumers who would otherwise be uninsured or lack sufficient coverage due to changes in their life situation. 

“An Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan is a fine solution for individuals and families who qualify for financial subsidies to lower their health insurance costs. But for the 8 million Americans who don’t qualify for an ACA plan subsidy and for those in a variety of life events, they should know there are other affordable options,” said Jeff Smedsrud, Chief Executive Officer of Pivot Health. “When life throws a curve ball, short term health plans can be a low-cost insurance solution while covering doctor office visits, hospitalization and more. It is a niche, temporary solution, but a large overall market.”

Smedsrud compiled a list of 10 life situations when short term health insurance could make the most sense for a health care consumer:

  1. Joining the “gig” economy – At the end of 2016, the percentage of new entrepreneurs starting their own companies was 7.4 percent – the highest it has been in four years. A recent study credited a rebounding economy, easy-to-obtain credit and hopes for an Obamacare repeal and tax reform under the Trump administration as reasons for the surge. For new business owners or solo-preneurs, being able to obtain immediate and affordable health insurance coverage is a key component to their personal success. Short term medical insurance can start in just 24-hours and costs about 50% less than traditional health insurance. 
  2. Stuck in employer waiting period – The unemployment rate across the nation is at an all-time low due to recent economic upturn. With a robust economy, workers can jump from job to job to ultimately land their ideal career. Yet many times employers have a 90-day waiting period before health insurance benefits begin. A temporary short term health plan helps bridge the gap for workers who are between jobs or stuck in a new employee waiting period.
  3. Moving to new state – In 2016, about 7.5 million Americans moved to a new state. When an individual with an ACA plan moves, their insurance certificate is no longer valid in their new state of residence. They can certainly enroll in another ACA plan once they have settled in their new home, but time and paperwork can delay coverage. In addition, the deductible starts over which is a big disadvantage to those who move late in the year. Short term medical with a lower deductible can serve as a temporary solution to provide immediate coverage for an unexpected illness or accident that occurs.
  4. College Students.   Students are allowed to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26.  But not all insurance companies will cover students attending college out-of-state. It could also be less expensive to remove a student from a parent’s policy and enroll in a short term health plan, a quick and easy solution for the months a student is away at school.
  5. Aging off parents insurance plan – The ACA allowed parents to keep their adult children on their family plan until the age of 26. Children who do not have access to employer coverage or need a more affordable option can benefit from low-cost short term health insurance. This is especially important for those who age off of their parent’s plan later in the year. A short term plan can be an excellent bridge of coverage to January 1.
  6. Early retirees –  When examining a larger demographic of 50-64-year old women, Pivot Health sales data shows this group completed the most applications on its website in 2017 when looking at gender-specific data. Early retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare but have too much household income to qualify for an Obamacare subsidy, can find a new option through short term medical that is friendly to budget-conscious, not-quite-yet-senior-citizens who are retiring early. Pivot Health estimates that nearly one million pre-retirees may be best served by – but should at least consider – a short term medical plan. 
  7. Freedom from doctor network – In 2017 1.9 million individuals who enrolled in an ACA plan only had one insurance carrier to choose from, often with restricted provider networks. This limits health care choice, especially in rural communities where provider resources are thin. Short term health plans marketed by Pivot Health have no doctor network. All providers are accepted, giving policyholders the ability to see any physician or facility without the worry of staying in-network.
  8. Divorce – More than 825,000 individuals divorced in 2017. In almost every case, one of the two partners needs to adjust their health insurance coverage, even temporarily. Women are at a greater risk of losing their insurance. A government study indicates that approximately 115,000 women lose their health insurance in the months following divorce. A short term health insurance plan can be purchased for a minimum of 30 days or for multiple months, depending on how long someone going through a divorce needs to get back on their feet.
  9. Too rich for Medicaid, too poor for subsidies – Across the U.S., 2.4 million people don’t make enough to qualify for a tax credit to purchase health insurance on the ACA exchange, yet make too much money to qualify for Medicaid benefits. This group of “coverage gap” individuals could benefit from low-cost short term insurance.
  10. COBRA – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides individuals who lose their job the ability to keep their health insurance for up to 18 months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports approximately 36 million Americans changed jobs in 2017. They might have the option to enroll in a COBRA plan, but the cost is far from economical. When an individual enrolls in COBRA, they must pay the entire insurance premium plus a 2 percent administrative fee. Many would be better off purchasing a short term health plan and saving their extra dollars while they job hunt. Additionally, those who had been employed by firms with less than 20 employees are not eligible for COBRA. 

Today short term medical plans are restricted to 90-days of coverage. However, a proposal to overturn the 90-day limitation was recently issued by the Trump administration. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is accepting comments about the proposal through the end of April 2018. It is expected HHS will reverse the rule at the end of 2018, allowing short term health insurance plans to have a coverage duration of up to 364 days. Short term plans generally do not cover pre-existing conditions, can deny coverage to individuals with chronic health conditions, have leaner benefits than ACA plans and are not considered qualified health benefits for purposes of premium subsidies based on income.

“Truth is, the short term medical insurance market is much bigger than experts estimate and helps millions get coverage and keep from being uninsured,” said Smedsrud. “It is not for everyone nor should it be considered a permanent plan. But there are millions who need temporary coverage because there are lots of curveballs in this turbulent time. Our plans provide easy enrollment, next day coverage, access to all medical providers, the ability to tailor plans to meet current needs, offer monthly pricing to meet many budgets, plus prescription drug benefits.”

About Capital Benefits Group
Capital Benefits Group is an insurance management, and benefits distributor company led by an experienced team of health insurance professionals.The company has proprietary products and dedicated relationships with several national carriers. Capital Benefits Group is excited to promote and distribute Pivot Health benefits. Pivot Health has led previous firms that were acquired by NYSE listed companies and recently announced it was acquired by HealthCare.com (www.healthcare.com), a privately-owned search-and-compare health insurance shopping platform. For more information, visit www.capital-benefits.com or email info@capital-benefits.com. 

Trump proposal boosts skimpy insurance plans, again undercutting Obamacare

The Trump administration is proposing to expand the availability of short-term health insurance plans that some deride as “junk insurance” — an effort that could give consumers cheaper coverage options but undermine Obamacare’s marketplaces and popular protections for pre-existing medical conditions.

Proposed rules issued this morning follow an executive order from President Donald Trump this fall seeking to expand access to more affordable health insurance alternatives to comprehensive, but pricey Obamacare plans. The HHS proposal, released weeks after the Trump administration issued a rule encouraging small businesses to find coverage outside the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, represents the administration’s latest effort to unwind the health care law with repeal efforts stalled in Congress.

“We need to be opening up more affordable alternatives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on a call with reporters today. “Today’s action represents an important promise kept by the president.”

But many health care experts fear expanding the availability of the health plans, which are exempt from Obamacare’s robust consumer protections, could further destabilize the law’s wobbly insurance markets. Critics say the plans offer just the illusion of coverage, and enrollees often don’t realize how limited their benefits are until it’s too late.

Short-term plans maintain cheaper prices than traditional insurance by refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions, in some cases, and some medical services. Unlike Obamacare coverage, the short-term plans typically cap payouts, which could leave enrollees with catastrophic illnesses or injuries on the hook for huge medical bills.

“The way that you get to lower premiums is to reduce benefits,” said Kevin Lucia, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “It’s a quick fix, but ultimately those products don’t help consumers who need them.”

The new rules are a reversal of the Obama administration’s efforts to limit short-term plans. It reduced the plans’ maximum length from one year to three months, hoping to steer more people into comprehensive Obamacare coverage.

The new proposal from Trump’s health, labor and treasury departments would restore the 12-month limit on short-term plans. The administration projects that between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals now in Obamacare plans would instead opt for short-term plans in 2019.

“You’ll get such low prices for such great care,” Trump said at the signing of his October executive order on health care. “It should have been done a long time ago.”

Supporters of short-term plans say they are an affordable insurance option for people who don’t want robust coverage and have been priced out of the individual market — especially middle-income customers who don’t qualify for Obamacare’s insurance subsidies. The Trump administration on Tuesday pointed out that the number of individuals purchasing plans without subsidies fell by 2 million, or nearly 25 percent, between 2016 and 2017, and one in four customers had access to just a single insurer selling coverage this year.

“Basically what they’re doing is giving people options who are already trying to jump off the ship,” said Edmund Haislmaier, a health policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

UnitedHealthcare, which withdrew from the Obamacare marketplaces after mounting financial losses, was “excited” by Trump’s health care executive order, chief financial officer Dan Schumacher said on an investor call in October. He cited the company’s history of selling short-term plans and touted it as an attractive option for people “in between coverage.”

The Trump administration last month also proposed expanding the availability of association health plans, in which small businesses and self-employed individuals band together to purchase coverage. The association plans are exempt from some Obamacare rules, such as the requirement to cover a set of 10 health benefits the law deemed “essential,” including prescription drugs and emergency care.

Trump’s insurance proposals come shortly after the GOP tax overhaul scrapped Obamacare’s individual mandate starting in 2019. The administration is also taking steps to expand exemptions to coverage requirement while it’s still in effect this year.

 Taken together, the administration’s moves are expected to weaken the law’s insurance marketplaces since individuals with few medical needs are likely to gravitate to the cheaper coverage. That would leave a disproportionately sicker, more expensive population in the Obamacare plans, further driving up already-rising premiums. Most low-income Obamacare customers would be protected from the resulting premium increases thanks to the law’s hefty insurance subsidies, meaning the marketplaces likely can still survive.“There won’t be a death spiral, but the people who really lose in that scenario are basically middle class people who are sick,” said Michael Miller, policy director of consumer advocacy group Community Catalyst.

States supportive of Obamacare are likely to take steps to curb the proliferation of short-term and association plans. In California, for example, state lawmakers this year have already offered legislation that would prohibit the sale of short-term plans.

The proposed rule will be open for comments until April 23.

Rachana Pradhan contributed to this report.

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Bust The Myths About Children’s Dental Care


While the general public acknowledges the importance of oral health, many Americans are still not connecting dental health to overall health or its value in lowering health care costs. The effect could be a reduction in children’s dental health.

Insurance agents and brokers can help do something about it, however, simply by working to boost group clients’ dental plan enrollment.

According to an American Dental Association (ADA) study, 95 percent of respondents agreed regular dental appointments are essential to their health, yet only 37 percent reported actually visiting a dentist within the last year.

The lack of urgency around preventive dental care trickles down to children, and is further fueled by misconceptions about pediatric dental care.

However, health benefit advisors can help close the dental wellness gap by distributing small bits of dental communication throughout the year leading up to enrollment.

A great time to start busting these misconceptions is during Children’s Dental Health Month in February.

The reality of children’s dental health

Kids with private dental coverage typically receive dental care earlier than those with public or no coverage. But it appears not to be early enough.

More than half of children ages two to four years old – regardless of household income level – are less likely to have seen a dentist compared to older children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends regular dental appointments after the first erupted tooth or by age one. Yet many parents wait until their children are much older to schedule their first dental visit.

Some parents are unaware of the common oral problems in toddlers and young children that, when ignored, can lead to major dental procedures. Some oral problems can follow kids as they grow and potentially result in even higher dental costs later.

Pediatric Dentistry’s 2015 clinical article, “Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Age One Dental Visit for the Privately Insured,” the annual cost for children who receive dental care by age one is significantly less compared to children whose regular dental care is delayed until they are older.

Children’s Dental Health Month tries to raise public awareness about the reality of children’s dental health while dispelling pediatric dental myths, such as toddlers do not need regular dental exams or only sugary foods cause cavities. The ADA produces lots of great content on the importance of family dental health, including how to care for children’s teeth and start great dental habits early.

Health benefit professionals can incorporate this content into their regular client communications for a powerful enrollment message and call to action to use preventive benefits, especially for young children.

Reiterate the dental message

The “Global Employee Benefits Watch 2016/2017 Report” found that employees are more likely to engage with relevant communication distributed over a period of time, using multiple channels. The right message for children’s oral health can be easy to find.

As one of the sponsors for Children’s Dental Health Month, the ADA provides multiple resources on its website from posters to news articles about pediatric dental health. Also, dental carriers can be a wonderful source of employee communication, including highly effective visual communication.

Brokers can amplify the wellness message by encouraging their group clients to use short and concise communications from these resources. The dental message should be repeated and distributed through multiple channels, as employees have different preferences for receiving news and benefits communication.

The goal is to motivate the audience to adapt proactive health behaviors while tying back to dental benefits.

All the necessary tools to become an advocate of pediatric oral health are already available through the ADA’s public awareness campaign. Brokers just have to share the message.

As a trusted health benefits advisor, your insights and guidance about children’s dental health will provide a better understanding of general dental health and reinforce the advantages of dental benefits. In turn, this approach will strengthen your client relationships as you offer your expertise and empathy for the wellbeing of employees and their families, and it may even increase dental plan participation during your next open enrollment.

Amy Marko is the senior vice president of dental and vision products and professional relations for Starmount, Unum Group’s dental and vision center of expertise. Amy may be contacted at amy.marko@innfeedback.com.

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Insurance Agents Provide the Most Important Work Benefits

Health Care Seen as Most Important Work Benefit

Health insurance remains the most important benefit to workers, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute study, with 87 percent calling it important or very important to them–more than the 77 percent responding similarly regarding their retirement savings plan and the 72 percent for vision and dental care.

“Workers overwhelmingly consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit when considering whether to stay in a current job or choose a new job,” it said in a report on the latest version of a poll taken annually for 20 years.

However, overall workers are only “moderately satisfied with the benefits package offered by their employer.” Of those polled, for example, about a fifth said their employer does not offer health insurance and a quarter said it does not offer a retirement savings plan and a third said it does not offer long-term care insurance–in contrast to the federal government, which offers each to nearly all of its employees.

However, the poll also found that certain benefits the government doesn’t offer are common in the private sector. Fifty-eight percent said their employer offers short-term disability insurance, 28 percent accident insurance, 21 percent supplemental health insurance, 19 percent critical illness insurance and 16 percent cancer insurance.

Original Article



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The Amazon Collaboration: 5 thoughts for benefits brokers

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few days, you’ve heard that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase announced a collaboration to do something about health care for their employees. While the announcement highlighted goals of transparency, tech innovation and forsaken profits – it didn’t include details of how these goals would be achieved. So, what are we supposed to think?

I’ve read at least 10 articles on the topic and it’s BIG in all ways! (ICYMI: Amazon is the biggest retailer, JP Morgan is the biggest bank and Berkshire Hathaway has substantial minority stock holdings in some of the biggest and best-known publicly traded companies in the United States. The health-care industry is 18 percent of the GDP and within two hours of the announcement, speculation caused key health care companies to drop $30 billion dollars in market value.)

As a previous senior manager at Amazon, I have great confidence in this collaboration because Jeff Bezos demonstrates the characteristics this endeavor will require: vision, financial strength, tech innovation, enthusiasm and a passion for the customer. I’m excited to see these three giants of tech, finance, and industry collaborating.

My career at Amazon brings to mind five thoughts about this announcement:

1. This collaboration is unique

It’s unique for two specific reasons:

  1. These three companies are using their own employee populations to “test” some ideas that could have a broader reach in the future. In the next few years, the companies are projected to provide health insurance for over 1 million employees and 2.5 million members in the US. Based on the average employer spend per employee, these three companies are looking to pay a combined $14 billion dollars annually on health care costs. This strategic partnership with such a large population will create opportunities to reduce cost, improve transparency, and build technological solutions.
  1. While each company is an expert in their own industry, none of them know health care. They might not KNOW health care, but they sure spend a lot on it. health care spending is a major expense for employers and can cause a competitive disadvantage. Starbucks spends more on employee health benefits than on coffee beans, and GM spends more on it than on steel.

During my time at Amazon, we entered product categories that weren’t our expertise. We were known for selling books and CDs, but broke into the footwear and clothing market. To gain expertise fast, Amazon would sometimes acquire industry innovators. One of the best-known acquisitions was Zappos, an expert in the footwear industry with great insights, innovation and a relentless focus on customer experience. Amazon became a student of Zappos and as a result is now the top retailer for footwear in the US. I think this deal opens opportunities for more partnerships with health care leaders and experts who have proven to bring innovation and customer-focus.


2. Amazon’s culture was made for this challenge

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it does wonders for Amazon! It’s part of the culture to always be learning and seeking to improve. When most retailers would ship, pack and land your order in a “fast” two weeks – Amazon challenged the status quo and delivered in two days. Amazon was not in the logistics business, they were in the book-selling business. Yet, today they are logistics gurus because they learned, hired experts, sacrificed short-term gains, and prioritized long-term improvement over profit.

It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos is curious about new possibilities and he acts to explore them. Recently he said, “success will require a beginner’s mindset.” While they don’t have the answer to this very complex, heavily regulated, highly political endeavor – I know that Amazon is entering this task with eyes wide open. They aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, challenge the status quo and spend the money and time to find the right solution(s).

I’m sure you noticed the phrase, “free from profit-making incentives.” While many in the industry may scoff at this, recognize what it means. Using their 2.5 million members, they’re willing to invest in new ideas and be a health care incubator for America. If there’s money to be made, I’m sure they’ll figure it out, but they don’t have the short-term constraint of bringing ideas to market profitably. This is a differentiation.

3. Leaders inspire results

Jeff Bezos has an amazing ability to create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. I remember when he announced that Amazon would be the number-one clothing retailer in the US while we were still in “startup mode.” He created the vision, empowered his team, taught us to fail fast and funded the growth. Today Amazon is the number-one retailer in clothing.

Another example: Would we ever have made it to the moon if John F. Kennedy hadn’t announced before Congress, “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”?

I made a bold move leaving Amazon to help the team at freshbenies improve health care. I have observed that health care is a segmented industry with few leaders calling out a bold direction. I admire these 3 leaders for their audacious vision and ambition.

4. Information is useful, but rumors are useless

In an earlier article, I noted that the health care industry is ripe for disruption, innovation, a better end-user experience, transparency, technological advances, etc. If you’re concerned about this deal, you should be concerned for EVERYONE coming after health care – Google, Apple and so many others! The space is primed for gutsy companies that will deliver a better experience. Speaking of that…

5. Customer experience will be the focus

While at Amazon the team would gather for “All-Hands” meetings with Jeff Bezos. In one of those meetings, an employee inquired about Jeff’s high customer service standard. Jeff said that his goal wasn’t to just elevate the customer experience at Amazon but to influence all industries to elevate their customer experience. To him, customer service is not a goal but the entire vision of his company. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase said, “Our people want transparency, knowledge, and control when it comes to managing their health care.” I think it’s safe to say that elevating the employee experience will be a top priority!

Megan McArdle from Bloomberg View wrote, “health care costs are a bit like the weather: everyone talks about them, but no one ever does anything about it.” Maybe these three leaders will spark change and actually do something about it.

We should all take note of the information that has been released:

  • Three companies have decided to partner to figure out how to reduce health care costs for their companies and employees.
  • They will focus on technology solutions that can provide simplified and transparent health care, at a lower cost.

That’s what we know. The rest is only rumors. Amazon is usually pretty tight-lipped about their projects, so don’t expect to hear much until the launch.

FEB 01, 2018 | BY TONIA DEGNER – Benefits Pro 

Millennials have different ideas about retirement, longevity and their finances

Millennials have different ideas about retirement, longevity, and finances at the end of life than other generations.

That doesn’t mean they think about those things realistically. In fact, they’re not thinking about their future much at all.

So finds a survey from Aperion Care that asked millennials questions as followed but not limited to: How long do you expect to live? Do you think you will have longer lifespans than your parents? How they’re doing on saving for retirement?

Bear in mind, the survey report notes, this generation (currently aged 21 to 37) grew up with the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession, school shootings and the Gulf War. This generation witnessed the election of the first African-American president Barack Obama. In addition the view of a society that offers a very child-centrist environment, not to mention the rise of social media.

While the study finds them to be idealistic, many of their notions about the future could leave them exposed to a rude awakening.

Millennials on retirement preparation

For instance, 60% expect to be in “average” financial shape when they die, and 56 % aren’t all that concerned about being a burden to people as they age.  55 % say they’ll be about the same or worse off financially as their parents when they die.

They also see themselves dying somewhere other than a nursing home — see the snippet from Aperion’s infographic (click to enlarge):


Most (58 %) are already saving for retirement. 84 % of savers having accumulated less than $50,000.
( 53 % of boomers have less than $50,000 saved, too)

Asperion’s infographic (click to enlarge):


But besides that, here’s the really scary part: 34 % of millennials think they’ll be able to get by comfortably, no less—on less than $200,000 in retirement.

The reality, according to AARP, is that to be able to live off of $40,000 a year in retirement, a worker needs to save about $1.18 million for a 30-year retirement.

And despite that naïve expectation, other expectations included:  85 % expect to own a home, despite loads of student debt and low-paying jobs, 58 % also plan to help out their kids with college tuition and 40 % think they’ll retire younger than their parents did.

A mixed outlook on the future

Indicating a very mixed outlook, despite all those financially ambitious—if unrealistic—goals, 79 % expect to live through another major economic depression and 51 % think that global warming will become irreversible.

And in a sad commentary on both the state of the world and the state of millennials’ minds, they believe that universal health care in the U.S. is less likely (60%) than the advent of World War III (44%).


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